Chevrolet Volt

Opel Ampera

Cadillac Converj
General Motors wishes to expand the reach of its Volt platform

It's not exactly been an easy few days for General Motors. Late Sunday, news that Rick Wagoner had been forced out as GM's CEO by the Obama administration leaked to the press. The very next day, President Obama revealed that the government would not provide GM (or Chrysler) with additional long-term federal bailout money.

Instead, GM was told that it would be given 60-days to turn the boat around or it would face bankruptcy.

With the clock ticking on GM's plan for action, the company is now asking for more money according to Reuters. This time around, GM is asking for $2.6 billion USD in low-interest loans to develop more vehicles based on the Chevrolet Volt platform. GM is already seeking $7.7 billion USD from a U.S. Department of Energy program to aid automakers in the development of fuel efficient vehicles.

Interestingly enough, President Obama's automotive task force has already noted [PDF] that the Volt isn't enough to save GM and that the company has bigger issues that need to be resolved. The task force cited GM's continued reliance on profits from large trucks as a sticking point.

"GM earns a large share of its profits from high-margin trucks and SUVs, which are vulnerable to a continuing shift in consumer preference to smaller vehicles," noted the task force in GM's viability summary. "Additionally, while the Chevy Volt holds promise, it will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short-term."

Criticism of GM and the viability of the Volt program continued. "GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, ‘green’ powertrain development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable."

It is likely that the call for an additional $2.6 billion USD might be frowned upon by the government. Currently, there are only two other known variants of the Volt in existence with only one of them being production-ready. The Opel Ampera is a production-ready rebadge of the Volt and features differing front and rear bodywork while retaining the same interior.

The other Volt-derivative is the Cadillac Converj concept car that was unveiled during the Detroit Auto Show. The sleek, two-door coupe is sure to turn many heads, but its price tag is sure to eclipse that of the Volt which is expected to retail for around $40,000 or more before a $7,500 tax credit.

In order to get platform costs for the Volt down, GM is going to have to come up with a way to spread the development costs across a large number of vehicles. Toyota realized this when it developed its third-generation Prius. The Prius went from using its own platform to sharing a platform with the more plebian Toyota Corolla and Matrix.

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