Lies, Hybrids, and a Jolt to the Volt

Monday was supposed to be the Chevy Volt coming out party. Instead critics came out pounding GM for misleading the public about the whether the Volt is a true electric vehicle or gas-electric hybrid, like the Prius . The distinction doesn't change the performance of the Volt. It does, however, have everything to do with image.

Chevy Volt
Source: chevrolet.com
Chevy Volt

Since the Volt was introduced three years ago, GM has made a big deal of correcting any journalist who called the Volt a hybrid. GM maintained the electric motor is driving the Volt wheels, so the car is an EV. But on Monday, GM said that in some situations, the Volt gas assist engine helps the electric motor as it powers the car. GM maintains the gas assist engine doesn't directly drive the Volt wheels, but instead just assists the electric motor which is the primary driver of the Volt wheels.

This is why GM insists the Volt is still a true E-V. A lot of other people think a more accurate term for the Volt would be hybrid. Still others are even more blunt: They say GM lied.

Whatever you call the Volt, this engine controversy is a PR blunder that could have avoided by explaining the situation sooner. Now, instead of reading about how the Volt performs and feels on the road, millions of Americans are reading blogs and articles about whether GM "lied" or mislead us about whether the Volt is a hybrid or electric car.

Six months or a year from now, few will remember this controversy. Yes, there is a core group of auto enthusiasts who will never forget this. But, for most it won't matter. What will matter is if the Volt delivers the ride, fuel savings, and image they want in their car. And yes, because image is a huge part of the electric car race, GM should learn that just because it says a car is an E-V, it doesn't mean everyone will buy it.

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