Consumer Reports Q&A With General Motors CEO Mary Barra Touches On Chevy Volt

3 years ago by Eric Loveday 33

2015 Chevy Volt

2015 Chevy Volt

Mary Barra Took Over The Reigns Of GM January 14th, 2014

Mary Barra Took Over The Reigns Of GM January 14th, 2014

In a rather lengthy Q&A session posted by Consumer Reports, General Motors CEO Mary Barra answers various reader questions submitted to Consumer Reports.

One question comes from Chevy Volt owner Shawn Tempesta, who posted the following to the Volt Owners Facebook page:

“Ah, look at that. Mary Barra answered my (heavily paraphrased) question!”

For some background, Tempesta adds:

Actual email I sent:

“Ms. Barra,

First let me say I am actually proud of your handling of these recalls. Certainly not best for the stock price. Certainly not best for dealerships. But it’s what’s best for human lives. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

I am not in any way married to GM or any of its offshoots but I am, in particular, a huge fan of the Chevy Volt. I have been driving one on a lease for two years now, and I can tell you without a doubt it is the greatest car I have ever owned.

33,000 miles. 122 gallons of gas.

My question/concern is about its future and how you plan to market it. This car is a game changer and whenever I tell someone what it can do they are stunned. Most people still think it is JUST an electric car, and does after 40 miles. And it seems the Volt has gone without an ad campaign for quite some time… Too long in fact. What does the next Volt have in store, and can I sit in on your marketing meetings so it can get the campaign it deserves?

Shawn
Las Vegas, NV “

Here’s how that got translated (paraphrased) and answered by Mary Barra:

Q. I have been driving a Chevy Volt for two years now, and it is the greatest car I’ve ever owned. Whenever I tell someone what it can do, they are stunned. Most people still think it is just an electric car and that it stops after 40 miles. What is its future?—Shawn Tempesta, Las Vegas

A. We engineered the Chevrolet Volt to be a moon shot: a vehicle that would allow most people to complete their daily driving in full electric mode while eliminating range anxiety on longer trips. On average, Volt drivers go more than 970 miles and more than a month between fill-ups. In January we’ll have more news to share about the next-generation Volt—I think you and your friends will be even more impressed.

Source: Consumer Reports

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33 responses to "Consumer Reports Q&A With General Motors CEO Mary Barra Touches On Chevy Volt"

  1. David Murray says:

    I have repeatedly had the same conversations with people. I find that most people have no idea what the Volt is about and if you ask them they think one of two things:

    1) It is a hybrid like the Toyota Prius and it gets roughly 40 mpg (worse than a Prius) So you might as well get a Prius.

    2) It is an electric car, but it only goes 40 miles on a charge and then you have to stop and recharge somewhere.

    So when I explain to people how it really works, and they actually stop and think about it, light bulbs start to go off in their heads.

    1. Assaf says:

      When this happens to a much-talked-about car by the largest American automaker, a car that has been on the road for nearly 4 years and gets some of the highest consumer-satisfaction and reliability scores…

      …then there’s no one except that automaker’s marketing and upper management to blame. CEO Barra needs to do more, and more quickly, to undo this gigantic marketing failure.

    2. Spec9 says:

      🙁 Damn it . . . people are so stupid.

    3. william edwards says:

      I wish they had the Volt powertrain in one vehicle in every segment of their markets…

  2. GeorgeS says:

    I had high hopes for Mary when it comes to our Volt.

    Unfortunately it appears that she is (for good reason) tied up in more mundane aspects of her job like making GM a profit (read selling pick ’em up trucks) and putting out ignition switch fires.

    In other GM Volt news it just is being reported by automotive news that the gen 2 Volt will indeed have a TURBO 3 as it’s range extender.

    1. Big Solar says:

      Turbo?? WTH? Make the dang motor reliable GM!!

      1. Mike says:

        What’s the problem? I haven’t heard of a turbo issue in 20 years. The Volt is GM’s most reliable car already.

        1. Brian says:

          FWIW, most people I know that have a car with turbo have had issues with them. For example, a friend as a VW Jetta TDI and the turbo is completely shot. Another friend had a Saab where the turbo died.

      2. Dan says:

        What reason do you have to believe that the engine will not be reliable with a turbo?

    2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      I’d rather it be an Atkinson cycle with a turbo that’s also a generator, so it would be maximally efficient when used normally (with the turbocharger generating electricity instead of boost), but when additional power is needed (high speeds, hills) the ECU could dump more fuel in and spin up the turbocharger to do Miller cycle forced induction.

  3. JRMW says:

    I give GM, and Bob Lutz, tons and tons of credit for what they did with the Volt. It really is/was revolutionary.

    They’ve positioned themselves to be an EV/PHEV juggernaut. All they need to do is mimic Toyota’s playbook for when Toyota released the Prius, and they’ll be set.

    But I’ve been perplexed as to why GM hasn’t pushed the Volt stronger. Is it the loss of Bob Lutz? Is there concern that it’ll steal from their ICE sales?

    I’d also like them to release more cars on the platform. They have the Volt and the Cadillac, but clearly others are in the pipeline. Perhaps a Buick or GMC?

    Or maybe create a new brand? Does being a Chevy hold the Volt back?

    1. pete g says:

      Stay away from all things Toyota. The Vehicles and engines haven’t been updated for a while, and the recalls are starting to mount. The company has alot riding on the refreshed Camry. Needs it to be an overwhelming success and it’s not a looker.

  4. Evil Attorney says:

    I hate these non-answer answers that CEOs and politicians give. If you don’t want to answer questions in a meaningful, thoughtful way, don’t do a Q&A session.

    1. David Murray says:

      Agree – I’d rather hear them say “I can’t answer that right now” than to dance around the question.

      1. Mike says:

        Yes, it was a question about ADVERTISING.
        GM Do You Have a Volt Advertising Budget, and Why Not.

  5. ffbj says:

    I wonder if a company can declare bankruptcy twice? I have zero respect for GM due to their long history and tradition of being a robber baron and of just being a bad corporate citizen, though I do hope their electric and hybrid vehicles do well, not for them, but the consumers and the planet.

    1. jkw says:

      Companies can declare bankruptcy any number of times. In some industries (such as airlines), declaring bankruptcy every 5-15 years is almost normal.

      Is there some reason you think GM should declare bankruptcy?

      1. ffbj says:

        Mostly I was thinking of all the wrongful death suits coming their way due to the faulty ignition switch problems. Additionally the latest plethora of recalls they just announced.

        1. Tim says:

          Like it or not, GM has no liability from prior to the bankruptcy.

    2. pete g says:

      “Bad corporate citizen” GMs factories are Green employees are Union. Since the 1st oil crisis in the 70s the Japanese had every advantage (new factories, cheep labor, growing sales, small car expertise).Tables have now turned.

  6. Mark says:

    GM should do a very short ad where somebody on a whim just hops into a Volt and drives it across the USA, along a no Tesla supercharger route. Plug it in overnight when available, or not. It just goes with no compromise and no worry. Tesla can’t do that. Leaf can’t do that. If you can plug-in, then you can do routine every-day driving with no gas. If you want, you can drive across the USA with no planning, no worries, no limitations.

    A short, simple message that gets across the full idea and brilliance of the Volt.

    1. JRMW says:

      I’d rather they not advertise by bashing Nissan and Tesla.

      Instead, I’d rather GM advertise by extolling the Volt’s good qualities and bashing Toyota’s lies.

      There are a many reasons for this but one reason is that there are FAR more sales that can be “stolen” from Toyota Prius than can be stolen from the Leaf or Tesla. Second reason is that I’d really like to keep as many EV players in the game as possible. More OEMs means more diversity of products for potential consumers.

      Altering your very good commercial slightly:

      GM should do a very short ad where a woman unplugs and then gets in her Volt and looks at the dashboard which shows “6,045 miles on this gas tank” and the Wife says to Hubby “wow, we’ve saved $845 on gas in just the last 6 months!”

      And then they get an emergency call causing them to drive it across the USA. Show the Volt’s battery run to 0%, and then show it seamlessly switch to the ICE.

      That night: show how they can plug it in overnight when available, or not. It just goes with no compromise and no worry.

      Then end commercial with
      “Chevy Volt, all-electric most of the time but a normal gas engine whenever you need it! Save the Earth and Save Money. No range anxiety, no planning, no worries, no limitations.”

      A short, simple message that gets across the full idea and brilliance of the Volt.

      1. JRMW says:

        Second commercial:

        Split screen 1:
        Toyota Prius Owner drives up to Gas Station. Fiddles around and spends 3 minutes filling up. Spills gas on themselves. Prius owner says “Wow! I get 48 mpg and I only have to go to a gas station once every 2-3 weeks!”

        Split screen 2:
        Chevy Volt owner goes to her garage. Unplugs clean charge port. Volt owner says “Wow! It fills itself up at night while I sleep! I get 101 mpg and I haven’t been to a gas station in 6 months!”

        Split screen 2 overtakes Split screen 1:
        “Why Settle. Chevy Volt. Advanced technology that gives you twice the mpg as a Prius, without all the hassle and no range anxiety!”

        1. Brian says:

          I love it!

          You could also go directly after Toyota by inverting Lexus’ recent hybrid ads. Somebody on here doctored their photo with Volt information, and it was brilliantly clear that the Volt’s technology is superior in every way.

      2. Bill Howland says:

        Agreed that the Volt could use some decent advertising. I personally Love the basic ‘hard-sell’ style of advertising which few agencies currently do, and, with the VOLT , there a plenty of things to sell:

        1). Since neither the battery, planetary gearset, nor engine are taxed much at all, the car should be good for hundreds of thousands of miles.

        2). Most people run it as a totally electric car most of the time, and it mostly charges overnight using utility baseload electricity, therefore its very grid friendly (so why don’t utilities give more credits for volt owners?).

        3). Its spirited performance distances itself from econoboxes.

        4). With cheap electicity, it is very likely to over time mitigate its higher sticker price.

        5). The car when running most of the time on electricity, is smoother than a Rolls Royce.

        6). The car is great for urban areas since, running electrically, it doesn’t worsen the smog situation.

    2. pete g says:

      How about a short ad with the Volt driver having trouble at a gas station. (Pulling in on the wrong side, not getting the whole prepay thing) telling a perplexed on looker ” its been a while since I filled up, but I’m going out of town this weekend” on looker say’s ” isn’t that an electric car”
      Cut away on the slogan ( Chevy Volt More than just an Electric Car)

  7. Brian Smith says:

    It’s amazing to me how many people don’t know what hybrids do. I own a Prius and still get people asking me if I have to plug it in! The Prius has been around for ten years, and there is still confusion in the minds of the great unwashed; no wonder they mangle the capabilities of the Volt.

  8. pjwood says:

    “Moonshot” has been verbage GM execs have used in the last couple years, to foster Volt’s challenges. I thought the word, more or less, became code for “not how you stay in business”.

    1. pete g says:

      Most years GM sells about 15K corvettes and they kept that around for 50 years. Volts been selling 23K

      I know. This years Corvette numbers are closer to50K

  9. Johnny GT says:

    I can answer all the questions about why GM won’t push the Volt. I just had mine in for some warranty work, and my advisor mumbled under his breath that the only time they see a VOLT is for warranty work. As in…the service departments really don’t make any money on them. Service departments are what keeps dealers alive, hell…they practically sell cars for cost just so they can get paid to maintain them for a decade.

    All the more reason for automakers to be allowed to sell direct. I’ve put over 20 thousand miles on my Volt. I’ve been to the dealer twice. One oil change, and recently to have the suspension looked at.

    1. KickinCanada says:

      You hit on the real reason dealers don’t want to sell them. Zero profit in the service department where it counts.

    2. Mike I says:

      He’s lucky you came in at all and that GM is paying for that warranty work.

  10. SolarStorm says:

    The fact that GM does not heavily promote Volt is partly by design!

    The established car companies have much in stake with their current investments in the existing technologies (which they have been maturing over a century) and know better that if they get the public moving towards EVs quickly/prematurely, they will have a major issue on their hands: massive retooling of their manufacturing, the lack of charging infrastructure (at large scale), lack of skilled field operations (sales, service, …). Therefore they are intentionally buying time. But if they are smart, they are planning behind the seen. That is, the next gen of Volt (as well as its ICE sisters and brothers) become more modular such that they can share many aspects of design and manufacturing so that GM can at least deal better with some of the above challenges (more on this below).

    Well, OK, I admit, I don’t have much faith that GM is making much of strategic planning towards the future of EVs. But you can see that more clearly with European (primarily the German) automakers. They have adopted a significant push towards Plugin Hybrid. They know EVs are inevitable, but on one hand they have all the concerns mentioned above, and on the other hand, the likes of Daimler, Audio, VW, etc. are strategic planners and know they have to cross this bridge at some point. Therefore, PHEV is a compromise that they have adopted at this time as they get their arms around the technology, logistics, and the market psychology that they know they MUST face in the near future.

    Just look at the PHEV line up of VW Group (including Porsche and Audi) that was recently announced and will gradually take effect. Or look at the latest Daimler announcements in the Paris auto show about their PHEV and EV strategy. The major models are starting to show up in PHEV and then few here and there in pure EV.

    To boost, it appears that Daimler even managed to convince they Chinese partner (BYD) to switch to the same approach. While BYD was initially very hot on EVs (both for cars and buses), after they released their first pure EV joint venture with Daimler (Denza), they announced that in the near future they will focus on PHEV for cars (they continue with EV buses).

    I suspect as GM more closely aligns the manufacturing of the next gen Volt with their other ICE brands, we’ll see more confident and aggressive marketing for Volt. This is the approach large scale car makers are starting to take. For example, VW is planning to build a modular VW-Golf that could share many commons in design and manufacturing across any forms of power train (ICE, Diesel, PHEV, pure EV,…), which allows their factories to quickly responded to shift in the market demands as they provide/promote these options to their consumer base.
    The same is true for Mercedes 500 S or B-Class which delivers the same car with different power trains.