Life would be so much easier with a rewind button, and former GM exec and bigmouth Bob Lutz has spoken both for, and against the Chevy Volt, a car he helped push to production. In a recent interview Lutz, who now serves on the board of hybrid-truck maker VIA Motors, says that the Chevy Volt would’ve been better as a truck or SUV. Uh huh.
Why the sudden change of heart? Bob Lutz says that he now realizes it makes more sense to improve the gas mileage of large, inefficient vehicles, than small cars that are already capable of 40 MPG or more. Lutz has a point, as doubling the fuel economy of a 12 MPG pickup saves more fuel than adding another 5 MPG onto a 40 MPG car like the Chevy Cruze. As Maximum Bob also notes, America historically loves SUVs and pickup trucks, though high fuel prices have made them something of an endangered species.
The problem, as I see it, is convincing American truck and SUV buyers that paying a premium for a hybrid drivetrain is worth it. Before GM ever sold a single Volt, there was the short-lived two-mode hybrid pickups and SUVs GM cobbled together in the months before the company declared bankruptcy. While the 20 MPG highway rating was meh, these trucks were supposedly capable of up to 20 MPG in city driving as well, something other automakers are just catching up to four years later. With a $38,000 starting price though, imagine how much more expensive a Voltec drivetrain would’ve added to the cost.
Better yet, don’t imagine, but instead look at Lutz’s hybrid vehicle scheme, VIA Motors. Able to serve as both on-site generators while going up to 40 miles on pure electricity alone, VIA’s GM-based plug-in hybrid pickups costs about the same as a Tesla Model S, and no, that’s not an exaggeration. While the hybrid truck maker has found some traction in the commercial market, I can’t imagine a $70,000 hybrid pickup would’ve been a great seller in the middle of the Great Recession; the $40,000 Chevy Volt had a hard enough time finding buyers.
I guess for some people, life does have a rewind button of sorts, and VIA Motors is Lutz’s “do-over” button. Good for him.
Source: The Seattle Times