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GM Continues To Push Forward

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On: Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 3:14PM | By: Nick Truden

GM Continues To Push Forward

As winter approaches and as America gently heaves itself out of economic implosion, the mainstay of our country's ingenuity, the automobile, has finally reached the breaking point of "do or do not". With oil and gas prices still at an all-time high, Americans DO want those vehicles of the future the car companies have been promising us for the last few decades. We DO NOT want the same old song and dance previously touted by the big three (GM, Ford, Chrysler) rendering us dumbfounded as to when an oil-free salvation will come. General Motors appears to be at the forefront of this retooling, thanks to their help from Uncle Sam.

Nevertheless, the public, for the most part, is still skeptical as to how the government's intervention in bailing out General Motors will affect the automotive industry and the economy as a whole. The bailout came with a stipulation that GM must buy back the company from the government by the end of 2010. Politics aside, GM has unveiled a new marketing and ad campaign focusing on their biggest sellers. A new commercial starring the new chief of GM, Edward Whitacre Jr. (formerly of AT&T), made the offer that “if you’re not 100% happy, return it, we’ll take it back.” It is their new 60-day satisfaction guarantee on all four of the brands that survived the cut: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac.

"If you’re not 100% happy, return it, we’ll take it back."

However, beyond the flagship vehicles that made the company a household name, GM will be introducing their first electric car since the EV1 in 2010, the Chevrolet Volt. This is already old news for some, but for others not attuned to auto industry news the following will hopefully answer some questions as to what the Volt is all about.

2011 Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a small gasoline engine acting as a generator to perpetually recharge the vehicle’s on-board lithium-ion batteries. The consumer will also have the option to plug the vehicle into a standard 120-240VAC residential outlet if he or she wants to stay gas-free. With fully charged batteries the Volt is expected to be able to drive at least 40 miles before a recharge is required. On the other hand, since the Volt will have an on-board generator via the gasoline engine, the average MPG for the car will be about 230 miles while using a full tank of gas, which for the Volt will be eight gallons.

This brings to light the question of whether or not to use your home’s electricity or purchase gasoline to charge the Volt’s batteries. Plugging the car into a home outlet for a full recharge may not be as cost effective as one might think. It would take 6.5 hours on a 110 volt standard home outlet and 3 hours on a 220 volt which would be the equivalent of running your dryer or washer for 3 hours straight. So on a per year basis, it might actually be cheaper to purchase a gallon of gas each week to help recharge the batteries as opposed to falling prey to the your power company’s constant kilowatt per hour increase.

A check in the pro column for the Volt is its use of regenerative braking. That means when the brakes are applied the kinetic (motion-based) energy that was used to stop the car will be recaptured to use as electricity to power the vehicle. A con, of course, is the $40,000 MSRP, and that is without any rebates or incentives by GM or the government.

Beyond all the hype and promotion General Motors is now packing with its 60-Day Return Guarantee ad campaign and the promise of a cleaner future with the Chevy Volt, Americans are still left with a sour taste in their mouth from years of empty promises. In the new commercial Whitacre also states that GM is “putting their money where their mouth is”. The old saying of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander applies to this current state of affairs in the auto industry. The other major American car companies don’t necessarily need to follow GM’s approach, but they do need to pay attention. Then, and only then, will the citizens of America and the world be able to really have faith in a once great economic powerhouse and break away from the “steady as she goes” mentality of the past.

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