RIP, GM Shelves The EV1,
Maybe...

This just in from:

CALSTART News Notes
01/27/2000 - GM Seeks Stop to Persistent EV1-Death Rumors

Detroit, Michigan - General Motors - still battling to correct reports it had ''pulled the plug on its electric vehicles'' - is now taking proactive steps to spread the word that it has no intention to do so. Earlier this month, four news agencies - and numerous others that picked up the story - erroneously implied GM would no longer build its EV1 electric car (News Notes 1/12/00). To correct the false reports, Ken Stewart, brand manager for GM Advanced Technology Vehicles, at least twice issued open letters to journalists, policymakers and EV1 lessees reiterating GM's support for the EV1 program. When only a couple newspapers issued correcting articles, GM conducted a follow-up conference ''to correct any misimpressions'' on Jan. 20 with reporters from six major news organizations. GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce - the source of the comments that had became misconstrued - was present, along with GM ATV Executive Director Bob Purcell. Later, the Los Angeles Times published a clarifying article; other newspapers said they will too. For the latest news on GM's EV1 program, click on the link on the home page of CALSTART's Web site at: http://www.calstart.org 

GM Committed to EV1 – But “Misperception” Battle Rages

Beware the misperception firestorm. When bad information gets a start it can develop a life of its own.

The prime example here is the General Motors EV1. Despite numerous news reports to the contrary, it is not dead. GM has not stopped leasing, delivering or supporting it. GM has stated it remains committed to the vehicle itself and to electric drive vehicles as well. Now, also see how defensive that sounds?

Ever since the Detroit Auto Show, when an incorrect wire service story started running, feeding incorrect newspaper stories claiming the company had “pulled the plug” on the EV1, General Motors Advanced Technology Vehicles has been struggling to deny what they didn’t say in the first place. 

Is the company producing an EV1 in a plant today? 
No, but that’s because they build them out in batches of 500, and the most recent batch has just been completed.

Has the automaker stopped leasing and marketing the EV1? 
No, in fact GM offers a longer range model now with nickel-metal-hydride batteries from GM Ovonic, as well as a lower-priced,  advanced lead-acid battery model. GM is also “reconditioning” original EV1s coming in from their first lease and leasing them out again. 

Has GM changed its strategy regarding the EV1? 
No, the company says if anything it has stepped up its efforts with the vehicle and all they have learned from it. In addition, they are offering an upgraded charging system (Generation 2) with it as well, in partnership with Toyota.

Remember the Honda EV Plus, and how that company was accused of “pulling the plug” on their EV efforts last year? Honda couldn’t correct the misperceptions. Let’s not let the same thing happen to the EV1. Please click on the links below to learn more about what happened and what’s real.

01/12/2000 GM - No Change in its Support for EV1 Program
01/12/2000 News Agencies Report Early Demise of GM EV1?

GM ATV Letter about EV1
GM E-mail to EV1 Club

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UPDATE: January 20, 2000 - Electric Vehicle Today, the daily EV news service, re-printed a January 12th article from the Detroit Free Press. The text as follows:

GM says it will continue to make EV1s. GM recently countered allegations that it plans to halt production of its battery-powered EV1 electric vehicle. Recent media reports (see below) said the automaker planned to stop manufacturing the low-selling EV. However, GM director of energy and environmental communications Jeff Kuhlman said the company will produce another batch of EV1s if the market demands it.

The automaker manufactures the EV1 at a facility in Lansing, MI in blocks of 500. Kuhlman said if the company makes fewer than 500 vehicles, plant efficiency and quality control can suffer. However, if GM produces more than 500 vehicles, the EV1s could remain in storage for a long time before being leased.

Production of the EV1 can be a timely process. Because of the car's low production volume, assemblers normally produce about two or three EV1s per day. The company's latest batch of 500 was started in late 1998 and was completed a year later.

So far, GM has manufactured 1,000 EV1s, and only 600 have been leased. Kuhlman said it is unlikely that the company will embark on another batch of 500 EV1 with 400 still waiting to be shipped. However, the company will "watch the market" and keep all of its EV1 equipment and the manufacturing space in Lansing.

(Editor's note: This sounds very much like back-paddling damage control. GM is in fact stopping production. If sales were an issue, then GM would fill orders from other states in the Union, not just from California and Arizona. I know of 12 potential buyers in Connecticut where I live. I imagine such demand exists all over the country. Why then has GM not allowed the EV1 to be shipped to other states? Remy C. ET Ed.]

[This item was courtesy of Jim Motavalli, E magazine editor. The complete unedited version of the AP release was posted January 11th 2000 by www.infobeat.com, an email news service. The direct link is: http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2563205943-d77  
The comments in parenthesis are my own. Remy C. ET ed.]

But before you read the report of the EV1's premature death from the Associated Press, please read this Calstart NewsNotes by David L Modisette, Executive Director, California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC) 916-552-7077 FAX-552-7075 dmodis@ns.net or CalETC@ix.netcom.com:

01/12/2000 - GM - No Change in its Support for EV1 Program Detroit, Michigan - After a flurry of news reports implying General Motors would no longer build its EV1 electric car (News Notes 1/12/00), GM spokesman Jeff Kuhlman told WestStart-CALSTART that the reports were erroneous and that the automaker remains committed to the electric car. 'The news is there is no news...we haven't changed a thing we do,'' he said. Along with reiterating GM's commitment to the electric car, he said GM hasn't changed its business strategy, has just completed its second major ''build'' of a second-generation batch of EV1s and is even refurbishing and re-leasing its first-generation EV1s. He said GM's commitment to the EV1 hasn't stopped - it's greater than ever, citing the foregoing examples. According to Kuhlman, a reporter accustomed to standard automotive production schedules - not the ''batch'' production schedules used when GM builds its EV1s - was the root of the misunderstanding. He  said GM has said all along that it would continue to build EV1s as long as there was demand.

Justin Hyde of AP Auto wrote that GM had stopped production of the EV1, citing waning interests from its customers.

GM vice chairman Harry J. Pearce said Tuesday thatt GM was shifting its attention from all-electric cars to HEVs and fuel cells. Pearce said the company had sufficient supply of EV1s on hand and said while GM could build more, there was "no particular need".

GM will still lease EV1s in California and Arizona, but will "recycle" used EV1s as their leases end, giving them new battery packs.

GM had hoped to eventually sell thousands of EV1s. It spent $350 millions to develop the EV1 and promoted it heavily, delivering some of the first vehicles to celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone. (First ET has heard of this! Perhaps if Mr. Stallone had sent ET a pix we would have put it on our cover!)

After an initial flurry of success, few buyers came forward, and the EV1 limitations became clear. (Yes, such as no convertible model for the California weather driving life-style, the impossibility of actually "buying" the car, and the non-availability of nickel-metal hydride battery packs in this editor's opinion was the major cause of slow sales.)

EV1 leases cost between $400 and $600 a month, and for their money, owners got a car with a range of 80 miles that needed several hours of charging. (Not at rapid charging stations, of which there are hundreds of around the Los Angeles area! In other words, GM spent $350 million to prove it couldn't be done!)

Of 703 prospects who went through a special sales pitch for EV1s in the first three months, nearly 80 percent decided against it. GM increased the EV1's range, but sales didn't improve. (Took ET 3 months, speaking to 50 different people at GM to finally get an authorization to give them a free ad in our magazine! Seems to me their sales department was asleep at the switch if our readership wasn't their number one priority!)

GM spokesman Jeff Kuhlman said the company builds EV1s in batches of 500, and has made two batches since 1996. While no EV1s are being built right now, GM could restart the assembly line if the market demands it, Kuhlman said.

Last year, released 137 EV1s, and has leased about 600 since 1996. Pearce said the EV1 appealed mostly to die-hard fans of electric cars, and not a mass audience. (Maybe they didn't like the color choices!)

"Range, two seats, recharging... those are very real concerns that consumers have", Pearce said (so is not being able to stick your elbow out the window!) "we have spoiled customers with respects to motor vehicles. They want normal range, they want four seats, they don't want to spend time recharging." (Spoken like a true oil company executive!)

Pearce also said GM was working with Toyota on new power technologies, and said a HEV that would be a joint effort is possible. (At ET we are very apprehensive about a GM/Toyota collaboration, for fear that GM will hold back Toyota in bringing HEVs to market.)

GM and Toyota share a factory in California. The Prius in America will in fact be a HEV version of the ECHO.

( ET just heard from Bill Moore, editor of EVWorld who says: "Just so you folks know..... I spoke to Ken Stewart this morning and he says the AP story is erroneous. GM is still in the EV1 business....   Program is NOT being terminated. I'll interview Ken next Monday, so watch for story in next weeks edition of EVWorld. Bill." EVWorld can be found at www.evworld.com )

[Comments from Bruce Meland, Editor in Chief and Publisher of Electrifying Times: The inability of GM Ovonic to make reliable-turn key NiMH Batteries, like Panasonic has been able to do, was a major contributing factor to the slow lease rate and decline of production. GM was locked in to purchase of NiMH batteries from GM Ovonic.  Like a Honda representative said we were going to use half GM Ovonic and half Panasonic NiMH but GM Ovonic never delivered. He said GM Ovonic is a R&D Company not a  battery production company like Panasonic, which have delivered hundreds of NiMH packs to Toyota (RAV4 EV) and the Electric Ford Ranger. It is interesting to note that GM is buying the new valve regulated lead acid battery for the EV1 called the EV 1260 from Panasonic which reports a range of 90 miles for the EV1. This battery may boost leases of the EV1.]

(We also heard from Michael Lewis at Calstart <MLewis@calstart.org>:  Remy- We also have reports GM is denying it. Trying to get confirmation before publishing a story on it. Let me know what you hear. Saw your note about Bill Moore / Ken Stewart on your Web site.
Thanks, - Michael Lewis (805) 987-3049 )