General Motors Corp. honored its past and put the spotlight on its future Tuesday rolling out the production version of the new electric Volt as celebrated its centennial.
"GM has a very bright future," said GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Rick Wagoner, who used the Volt's coming-out party to challenge skepticism about the company's future in the face of rising fuel prices, declining sales and stiff challenge from Toyota, which is expected to top GM as the world's largest automaker this year.
"We have an awesome history and a tremendous heritage," he said, during a 40-minute broadcast that was linked to the company's operations in places such China, Brazil, South Africa, India, South Korean, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
"For most those 100 years GM has stood as the world's leading automaker," Wagoner added.
"Revealing the production version of the Chevy Volt is a great way to open our second century is a great way to open our second century," said Wagoner. "The Volt is symbolic of GM's strong commitment to the future and is just the kind of technological innovation that our industry needs to respond to today's and tomorrow's energy and environmental challenges."
Wagoner said than ore a year of tests of Volt prototypes, powered a lithium-ion batteries, have demonstrated that GM is on the right track. Robert Lutz, GM vice chairman and head of the company's production development stressed that "the volt is not a hybrid vehicle that runs primarily on gasoline. But a true electric vehicle that can be recharged by consumers after it is used."
The Volt is scheduled to appear in November, 2010 when it finally appears, GM will have built a commanding lead over Japanese rivals, according to GM vice chairman Robert Lutz. "We have three-year lead," Lutz said.
Ed Peper, general manager of the Chevrolet Division, described the Volt as GM's version of the US moonshot in the 1960s. "It required the best of our companies skills, he said.
The sleek appearance of the Volt will also redefine GM for many consumers. "With these vehicles we have the opportunity to be recognized as leaders in the market," said Molly Peck, divisional manager of advertising for Chevrolet.
Frank Weber, the GM executive in charge of the Volt's development, said statistics show that most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, which is well within the range of the Volt. The typical recharge, using a conventional 110 or 120 volt plug, will take about eight hours. Consumers using a Volt to drive 15,000 miles annually could save as much as 1,500 dollars annually in fuel costs by running on electric power. At current prices, it should cost only about 80 cents daily to recharge the Volt.
The car will have 250 horsepower and a top speed of 100 miles (160 km) per hour. GM also is making a long-term commitment to both cut the cost and improve the durability of the lithium-ion batteries. GM is using technology from A123 of Watertown, Ma. and Compact Power, which is an offshoot of the Korean company LG Chem.
The battery itself is made up of more than 250 flat cells that are carefully regulated by a unique computer program that will regulate all aspects of the Volts operation from the car's heating and cooling system to the time it takes to recharge the battery. "Energy storage systems will be the number one battlefield in the auto industry in the future," Weber said. "We have more than enough electricity to operate as many electric vehicles as you want," said Mark Duvall, manager of electric transportation for the California-Based Electric Power Research Institute.
Bryan Nesbitt, GM's head designer for North America, said the designers were given a completely free hand in developing the four-seat Volt. "We set up a separate studio dedicated to the Volt. It's truly a new vehicle," he said. "There is nothing else that you can compare it with," he said. Dave Lyon, the chief of GM interior designer, said GM designers also were careful to give the car a futuristic feel. "Car buyers are fairly conservative. But when they open the door on the Volt, we want them to feel that they're getting a little piece of the future,".