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This is true to an extent, but mostly because GM has not invested sufficiently in their technology to bring prices down enough to make their EVs profitable. Certainly if a company does not invest the initial R&D in any product it will not be desirable. There's a reason why Tesla is able to sell their vehicles at a premium and without the federal subsidy and GM is not. If anything, GM had a huge head start in this area with the EV1 development in the 90's and general manufacturing know-how that Tesla lacked.
GM is a conservative company because it's big and established. Their responsibility is to bring profit to their stakeholders now, and provide a path for profit into the future. Because they have a proven method of delivering profit to their stakeholders, the most important thing to them is to protect that. A certain amount of creativity is necessary for them to continue to make the necessary evolutions for future profitability.

Tesla had to break the mould to enter the market, because you can't come in as a newcomer trying to play everyone else's game better than them. The last major US auto manufacturer to be successful was maybe Chrysler 100 years ago. The liberal mindset was necessary here, to challenge the status quo and try new things. You've got to create a new game if you can't beat someone at theirs. Some of that backfired. Traditional (conservative) manufacturing processes have been finely tuned by the industry. Elon had "production ****" because too many new things were being tried.

It's still not clear that Tesla will be a successful auto manufacturing company. Musk himself said the probable outcome was failure, but if something is important enough, you've got to try.

GM missed a huge opportunity with the Voltec drivetrain, which was groundbreaking when it hit the market in 2010 and still is the best plug-in hybrid technology available. Most of the Voltec technology was housed in a unique transaxle, including the clutches and electric motors. This means that the packaging would have easily been adapted to fit GM's many other FWD platforms, including their small SUVs and crossovers. The margins in these segments is much higher and probably would have allowed them to post a profit.

(In addition - at risk of going on a tangent - the Volt was positioned as a Prius and Insight competitor in a fairly crowded field. There was no plug-in hybrid SUVs or EV SUVs in 2010, and there basically still aren't even today outside of a few luxury makes. Had a Voltec-powered Equinox or Traverse been developed, It would have owned this segment simply because there would have been no competition.)
I've always wondered why hybrid tech was developed first on the vehicles that stand the least to benefit from them. The Insight was basically the first US hybrid, and besides having terrible acceleration without the electric motor, it can get just about the same fuel economy in ICE only mode. Large trucks and SUVs were the logical place to start because the extra cost can be recovered more quickly in fuel savings.

To that end, I would have liked to see what GM could do with Voltec. Toyota is putting a 16 kWh battery in their new RAV4 Prime. Their cost to manufacture that battery might be $2,500 and the federal government allows a tax credit of $7,500. That's an extra $5k of value on the table they can build into the vehicle at essentially taxpayer expense. In my view, all the traditional companies missed an opportunity to spend their credits on plug-ins that just barely qualified for the full credit amount.

Now that GM has no credits remaining, the already poorly selling Volt will become that much less desirable from a financial perspective. They made the wise decision to shelve that technology until it's needed. They didn't lose Voltec, they still have it, only the tech doesn't make financial sense for them at the moment. When they see a pathway to profitability, they'll blow the dust off and start producing vehicles consumers want.

They are losing money on the Bolt because, simply, it looks cheap. It's packaged and styled like a econobox B-class subcompact for no reason whatsoever. It's very close to the specs that I want in an EV but it's just too ugly to consider. I think it's obvious it would have sold many times better as either a "regular" hatchback (Volkswagen Golf) or a crossover vehicle (Equinox).
The intention was never to have a top selling EV. Their battery and other parts orders were forecast well before the vehicle entered production, and they only had to make it desirable enough to sell the quantity they intended. They probably met most of their expectations with the Bolt.

Lastly, I respectfully disagree that an EV is just signalling interest. Each incremental build drives down the cost of the next unit. Also, they are already significantly better for the environment (see Here).
As I said, signaling interest is the primary benefit of purchasing an EV, not the only interest. Economies of scale are important too, but profitability is a problem you solve after determining sufficient market interest in a product. GM doesn't need the Bolt to be profitable, not at the moment anyhow.

GM is well positioned to lead an EV boom when it happens. They've already developed so much of the technology necessary. Now it's a matter of batteries getting better, and dumping money into R&D is no guarantee of solving that problem. After all, they aren't a chemicals company, they are an automotive manufacturing company. It's not their forte.
 

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Here is basically a Ted talk on why car companies are still developing internal combustion engines instead of going full steam on BEVs. From Engineering Explained on YouTube. Economics, why everyone is not buying BEVs (not cost), and engineering.

I like Jason’s follow up video that gets even more into efficiency using our beloved IONIQ as examples for an apples to apples comparison:

 

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Here is basically a Ted talk on why car companies are still developing internal combustion engines instead of going full steam on BEVs. From Engineering Explained on YouTube. Economics, why everyone is not buying BEVs (not cost), and engineering.

I like Jason’s follow up video that gets even more into efficiency using our beloved IONIQ as examples for an apples to apples comparison:

 

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I like Jason’s follow up video that gets even more into efficiency using our beloved IONIQ as examples for an apples to apples comparison:

These are both good videos and he does a good job explaining the differences.

However, his "apples to apples" comparison using the Ioniq Hybrid vs Electric isn't really a fair comparison given the context, since some of the penalties associated with EVs also apply to the hybrid (extra space/weight required for the battery, extra cost of the battery and motor in addition to the combustion engine).

A more applicable comparison would be a gasoline powered 2020 Elantra, which is very efficient for a gasoline car, but still only gets 30 MPG in urban driving. This means that the Ioniq Electric is almost 500% more efficient in the urban cycle than the best gasoline vehicle available in a similar size class.
 

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To that end, I would have liked to see what GM could do with Voltec. Toyota is putting a 16 kWh battery in their new RAV4 Prime. Their cost to manufacture that battery might be $2,500 and the federal government allows a tax credit of $7,500. That's an extra $5k of value on the table they can build into the vehicle at essentially taxpayer expense. In my view, all the traditional companies missed an opportunity to spend their credits on plug-ins that just barely qualified for the full credit amount.
IMO, Ford really messed this up with the Fusion Energi. Serious packaging issues aside (how the battery absorbs a lot of the trunk), they chose a 8.4 kWh pack that only gave about 20 miles of EV range, and only qualified for $4,000 of the tax credit. They could have easily scaled the pack to 16 kWh, gotten the full credit, probably not increased the purchase price at all, and provided double the EV range.

It sounds like that the Rav4 Prime is going to be a hot seller based on the info currently available. Amusingly, the specs are almost exactly the same to the first gen Volts (39 mile EV range and 90 MPG-e), although it's obviously a larger vehicle with better performance.

Now that GM has no credits remaining, the already poorly selling Volt will become that much less desirable from a financial perspective. They made the wise decision to shelve that technology until it's needed. They didn't lose Voltec, they still have it, only the tech doesn't make financial sense for them at the moment. When they see a pathway to profitability, they'll blow the dust off and start producing vehicles consumers want.
For sure it didn't make sense to continue selling the Volt with no credits left, but they missed the opportunity to bring a Voltec-SUV to the market many years ago and dominate the segment.
 
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