The Chevy Volt: An Interview with GM’s Tony Posawatz, Pt. I
October 14, 2011 11:00 am ET
In 1912, the US sales for plug-in electric cars peaked at about 6,000 units and never approached those numbers again. Now, almost 100 years later, a new alternative-fuel vehicle—the Chevy Volt—has opened our eyes to the possibilities, and realities, of an automobile for the 21st century. We sat down with Tony Posawatz, GM’s Vehicle Line Director for the Chevy Volt, who answered some questions and clarified a few misconceptions about Chevy’s much-hyped alternative fuel car.
What did GM set out to do when designing the Volt?
The team that developed the Volt set out to design a car that consumers would love to drive and as such, a car that oozes fun-to-drive qualities with a connected electric vehicle (EV) experiences. As a matter of fact, an often-used phrase from early buyers is not that the car is green, not that the car is efficient – it is that it’s fun to drive. The fun-to-drive factor is inherent with EVs because of their smoothness, peppy acceleration and premium feel. The feedback we’ve received from the customer is that they love that kind of driving experience. GM is known for making fun-to-drive vehicles including the Camaro. The EV offers a whole new fun experience – it’s both satisfying and rewarding to drive.
How is this ‘fun factor’ different from other vehicles?
When I see that the fuel gauge is low, I don’t have to find the nearest gas station. Instead, I can charge it with a standard outlet. Imagine waking up everyday with a full charge and driving past the gas station. It’s quite satisfying. Additionally, the Volt’s remote link smart phone app allows you to monitor and manage the car from a usage and ownership perspective, which really connects it to people’s lives. It integrates nicely with the modern lifestyle with ease and convenience – you don’t have to plug in, but you always have the capability to do so at a standard wall outlet or choose to use gas.
In addition to its electric charging capabilities, what’s so interesting and appealing about the Chevy Volt?
The Volt offers customers a unique solution that hadn’t existed in today’s market—an EV that can also run on petroleum, one which doesn’t require a lifestyle change. When we talk to customers, the biggest reason for purchasing the car is that is doesn’t necessitate any type of compromise
Even without having to make a compromise, why are people still skeptical?
With any new technology, and with one that is complex, sometimes messages are mixed— especially when you look at all the different EV choices that exist. Historically, EVs can be anything from golf carts to sports cars, and most consumers wouldn’t pick either of these as their daily use car. We listened to these concerns when designing the Volt and were able to make a vehicle with a unique value proposition: it’s electric when you want it, but allows you the comforts of gasoline when you need that, too.
What are some of the common misconceptions you hear about the Volt?
The most common misconception or concern is the price of the Volt. The Volt retails for $39,995, but if you subtract the federal tax of $7,500 credit, it brings the cost down to around $32,000. We also offer a very attractive 3-year lease for the Volt at only $399 per month with $2,500 down. Now subtract the EPA-estimated $7,600 energy savings over five years plus other incentives and benefits such as preferred parking, HOV lanes and GM solar charging stations makes the Volt even more attractive.
People also forget about the convenience factor. Imagine only having to go to the gas station once a month versus once a week, and saving money on your electric bill by plugging in at night versus during the day. People think it’s out of their price range, but if you study it more closely you’ll see that you could actually be saving money.