Accountable Strategies blog

A blog about accountability issues in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors

Is GM serious about its future this time?

Posted by David Kassel on July 20, 2009

Given General Motors’ campaign against its own electric car, the EV1, in the 1990s, it’s hard to be confident that they are serious this time around with their second electric model, the Volt.

Also, what happened with the EV1 may say a lot about why the company want bankrupt  in 2009. 

As The Washington Post recently reported,  it’s not clear that GM has learned any lessons from that short-lived bankruptcy.   The company is continuing to put money into the gas-guzzling Chevrolet Camaro SS, which has a 400-plus horse power V-8 engine and gets 25 miles to the gallon on the highway.  Bob Lutz, a vice chairman at GM, is quoted as saying that the Chevrolet Volt, the electric car under development, is a “symbol”  for the company. 

That’s fine, but is it only a symbol, or is there going to be substance this time to GM’s campaign for the Volt?

It’s important to keep in mind that once the bankruptcy dust settles, the federal government will have poured in $49 billion to help reorganize and save the company.   The result will be the closing of thousands of dealerships, a dozen assembly plants, and the loss of more than 100,000 jobs.  Along the way, GM missed the opportunity that Toyota grabbed in the development of the hybrid Prius.  What happened with the EV1 really was a murder of sorts.

GM killed off  the EV1  after corporate officials balked at more than $300 million for further development.  At the time, GM nearly had the alternative-car market to itself, according to The Washington Post. 

I recently watched the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?,  for the first time.   For me, one of the most shocking parts of the  film was footage of the company repossesing all existing models the EV1 from people who were leasing them and who wanted to keep them, and then taking the cars to be crushed in scrapyards.  Apparently, every last car had to be removed and all record of its existance erased.   The film makes a convincing case that GM was in bed with the oil industry, which feared that electric vehicles would take away part of their vast market. 

When a company destroys its own inventory in order to stop the technology of the future, you know something is very wrong.  Here’s hoping things will go differently with the Volt.


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