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Without Government Help, GM Steps Up Timing on Volt Delivery - 2011 DC Auto Show

January 2011 author photo


January 28, 2011

General Motors came to Washington D.C. again, this time to not ask for money. GM global vice president of design Ed Welburn, spoke at the Washington Auto Show in place of Mark Reuss, president of GM of North America because the snow outside prevented Reuss's attendance. He announced that the company is accelerating the rollout of the Chevrolet Volt, based on hot demand for that car.

That means that GM will sell the car through all its Chevrolet dealers in every state by the end of the year, rather than in 2012 as originally planned, Welburn said. Welburn wouldn't specify how much the planned production will increase, but he did say the company won't rely on a previously requested $14.4 billion low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to do it.

The company's financial status has changed since the time it applied for that loan and now GM prefers to not have that kind of loan weighing on its balance sheet, Welburn explained. "Let me stress that this decision will not affect our aggressive investment in new products, technology and, of course, outstanding design," he said.

Meanwhile, GM has registered interest in the Volt from 300,000 potential buyers through the company's web site, and a DC-area dealer sold out its entire allotment of 34 Volts for 2011 before production even began. These signals told the company that it needs more Volts, sooner, so the company will increase production this year, Welburn said.

"This accelerated launch plan, which had stretched into 2012, is the right thing to do for our customers," Welburn said.

"The Volt is clearly bringing new customers to Chevrolet," remarked Harry E. Criswell III, president and owner of Criswell Chevrolet, the dealer that sold out its Volt allotment. "We are seeing ten to fifteen customers a week who are seriously considering buying a Volt," he said. "Many of them own competitive brands and now have Chevy on their shopping list because of the Volt."

Indeed, one Volt buyer has traded in a BMW 5-Series, noted Welburn. Another was an 84-year-old who drove from his home in North Carolina to northern Virginia to take delivery of a Volt.

A few more announcements in which GM promises to deliver more while asking less from Uncle Sam could rid the company of the "Government Motors" moniker.

DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, DC.

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Without Government Help, GM Steps Up Timing on Volt Delivery - 2011 DC Auto Show - Autotrader