I drove a prototype Chevy Volt for the first time today, a car that runs on battery power for about 40 miles after being charged through a normal electrical outlet. After 40 miles, a gasoline generator kicks in to recharge the battery. Driving the Volt was an emotional experience for me, something I might tell my grandchildren when their memory of the gasoline powered car is as blurry as their parents' memory of the rotary dial telephone. I will be spending my Christmas vacation getting a Volt ready for the Detroit Auto Show.
I am a car person. When I saw GM collapsing all around me last year, I considered other careers. I was befuddled. I don’t have passion for much other than bicycles and automobiles, and there is little opportunity to work for a bicycle company (outside of China, of course). I was offered a position at Nuke Proof (a now defunct maker of beautiful titanium and carbon fiber bicycle components in Ada Michigan) the same week I was offered a job at GM. It was a tough choice. Few people share my frustration with, and affection for, the U.S. auto industry. I left the voice mail from the owner of Nuke Proof on my answering machine for 5 years, seriously.
So this morning I am checking email over breakfast. AOL has an article on the Volt where people can post comments. I spent a half hour reading comments showing how much people hate GM in general, and the Volt in particular. They say irrational things...like Chrysler could have developed this car much quicker than GM, or that the Toyota Prius makes more sense. GM deserves a lot of the bad press they have received lately but I am increasingly convinced that if the Volt was powered by solar panels or wind power, and hovered above the ground like in those 1950’s science fiction movies, people would still be unimpressed.
I remain optimistic about the future. My grandchildren, I’m sure, won’t remember this dark period in GM’s history. And Scott Quiring wont be the only person still making bicycles in the States.