A more high-tech 2016 Chevy Volt to bow in January at Detroit auto show
(MCT) -- ACME, Mich. - General Motors' next-generation Chevrolet Volt will make its world debut in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Tim Mahoney, Chevrolet chief marketing officer, would not provide details, except to say it will have more technology than the current Volt. Mahoney spoke this morning at the Management Briefing Seminars.
After sales for the first-generation Volt underwhelmed, GM is under pressure to deliver significant advancements to boost sales of the extended-range plug-in hybrid. California-based Tesla Motors will introduce a pure-electric vehicle in the Volt's price range by the end of 2017.
Former GM CEO Dan Akerson once projected annual Volt sales of 60,000, but even after cutting the price by $5,000 a year ago to about $35,000, Volt sales fell 9 percent in the first seven months of 2014 to 10,635 units.
The Volt is one of five redesigned Chevrolet vehicles that will debut in 2015. Mahoney declined to identify the others.
GM confirmed earlier this year that the next-generation Volt would be built at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant where it builds the current Volt, the Chevrolet Impala and Malibu sedans.
"The overall general value proposition for the consumer has to improve and that means basically increasing the benefit and reducing the cost," IHS Automotive analyst Tom Libby said. "It's very important to Chevrolet and GM because it gets so much visibility."
The sedan gets about 38 miles before engaging the gasoline motor. Then it can travel about 350 miles before needing a recharge.
GM is trumpeting customer satisfaction ratings of the car. It just needs more customers. The Volt has had few quality problems, but it hasn't struck a chord with the masses, and GM is losing money on the car.
Tesla, by contrast, has gained momentum on small volume of the Model S sedan, an ultra-luxury all-electric car with a range up to 300 miles per charge, and prices that range between $80,000 and $115,000.
GM is also racing to develop a pure-electric car with a range of about 200 miles in the price range of the current Volt, that would compete directly with Tesla.
"The Volt and Model S are not apples-to-apples for a number of reasons, but eventually what I want to see from GM is to have a pure electric vehicle with range comparable to Tesla's Gen-3 vehicle," said David Whiston, a Morningstar analyst.
One encouraging sign: 69 percent of Volts are sold to consumers who own a non-GM vehicle, Mahoney said.
"The Volt has done what it is supposed to do," Mahoney said. But he expects greater sales with the second generation.
"It is easier to explain because it is a known commodity," he said.
Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, said he does not consider the current Volt a flop. But he said GM needs to deliver substantial improvements for the new one, including a longer-range gas generator and more appealing interior design.
For example, the current version of the Volt has only four seats because the 400-pound T-shaped battery pack takes up the space that would otherwise be used for the middle of the back seat.
"This was kind of uncharted territory for most automakers, and definitely it got people noticing that GM is not just a pickup truck and SUV company, but they're very capable of doing other things as well," Sullivan said.
Mark Reuss, who is now GM's global product chief, told reporters in 2013 that one option is to build an architecture specifically for the Volt, which could boost energy efficiency even more. The current version is based on the Chevrolet Cruze sedan.
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