"Go ahead, lift it's skirt, so to speak." "Okay, here we go." That's me talking to Bob Boniface, the Director of the Volt Eflex Design Studio at General Motors . He's doing the lifting.
"That's it, that's all I can show you. But the future of General Motors rest right there."
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We are standing in the one of a kind Volt Eflex Design Studio on the campus of General Motors Design in suburban Detroit. While any normal concept or production vehicle is designed and built out in a collective environment, not so for the Volt. It has it's own studio, it's own time line, it's own sense of importance.
"When most people think of General Motors, they think of a Hummer or a truck or a big car. We want, need, to change that. That's really what the Volt is all about. Changing the public's perception of General Motors. That's why we have our own studio. It's that important."
Boniface is showing me around the place. It has all the design elements under one roof. From designers to engineers to fabricators to molders. You name it, if it has to do with designing a car and bringing it to market, it's here. The Volt is GM's "plug in" technology car, a true leap of technology and design, and it had better work. It is so critical to the future of GM that when Chairman Rick Waggoner mentioned that it might not be ready for 2009 or 2010 as planned, the stock plummeted.
"We need to get this right. It can't just be a science project. It has to be a car, and a car people want to drive." Boniface and I are sitting in a wooden mock up of the car as we talk. "Everything needs to be right from the beginning. And we need to be ready to go when they need us."
It is an electric vehicle, and that means batteries. Battery technology has always been the bugaboo when developing an electric vehicle, particularly one that is a plug in.
This time it's no different. Boniface's people and the engineers communicate daily, work out problems, decide how and when to fix them. Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz has vowed not to retire until the Volt is a reality. No pressure.
No wonder it has it's own design studio.
"Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and the Beach Boys have performed in here for dealer parties back in the 70's, " Boniface tells me while we look up at what used to be the stars' dressing rooms, "Now there's a different kind of star on this stage, and the company's future depends on it."
A very high Volt-age situation.
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It's an "electric" situation.
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