So far I am learning:
- The limits of Volt's product development lifecycle
- how people react to the idea
LIMITS OF VOLT'S PD LIFECYCLE
Project and product management is a fine art. As someone in IT (information technology), I often see how TOM (time to market) is both critical to the value of the product (market share, perceived worth, brand reputation, etc.) and limiting of its value and viability (update cycle, # and severity of post-launch fixes/support, cost of support/overhaead). I also see how difficult this problem is for those that manufacture a fixed/final product like furniture or an automobile. Actually, GM has impressed me with how ell they have managed overall the product development of the Volt.
That said, GM should have provided more colors than shades of grey: silver, Vivian Joule silver, cyber grey, and black. It reminds me of the saying attributed to Henry Ford, "We can sell you any color you like... so long as it's black." Where are the blue tones GM? Where are the browns? Thank goodness there is a red and a cream white. BUT with a revolutionary car, why not a "WOW!" color? ...like orange, a "Hotwheels color," etc.? In the end, given the limited number of colors, I am going with grey. i would have gladly had a radical Hotwheels chartruese!
Another limitation is the newness of the vehicle. The result is that GM has not yet been able to support test drives at the dealerships that it has selected and identified for Volt's initial sales. Bad idea. Every so designated dealer should have been provided/ordered one such "sample car" per Quarter (or whatever periodicity makes sense from a sales-production equation perspective). I have never bought a car that I have not driven. I am typical.
I have bought 1st generation/early release vehicles from Toyota and Mazda. Both dealers had a "sample car" to drive. Looking at the Hyundai Sonata at the beginniong of the year and at the Turbo Sonata when it came out later on, the dealer also had a "sample car." Am I that ahead in the Volt launch process or has GM placed more emphasis on hype (advertising) and thus set themselves up for higher roll-out expectations that they cannot reach? This issue will be fixed as the roll-out progresses, but it should have never sprung up.
Once I test drive the Volt, I may identify more basic product and roll-out limitations that GM, for some unknown reason, did not address/catch through their product development process. It also seems to me that GM could be putting at this stage of the PD lifecycle a lot more resources into the launch of sales and support for the Volt and perhaps less on mere advertising/buzz generation. Specifically, my dealer has seemed to have to discover several matters on his own. At least GM/Chevy has conducted some sales training for its dealers, and has put in place a customer service tel# just for Volt. Both have been helpful.
I am puzzled that my dealer has had to "go on a safari" to find out some of the most basic of consumer questions. But when he has, he has won me over as a customer since he consistently turns around and contacts me.
I never thought I'd buy a Chevrolet. I grew up in a Ford family. We bought Fords, period. I went off and bought German and Japanese cars since college. I worked for a company that supplied to people in my role a midsize GM (Buick and Oldsmobile). I hated mine. when I left there I went back to buying Japanese and German cars. I was looking to possibly even buy a Ford Fusion this time. But, my Chevy dealer has been a welcome surprise. The silence from GM on my order has not been so welcome.
Patience is both a blessing and an excuse for silence. Silence is deadly and keeps ships from getting sunk. Silence excuses inactivity, a curse. It helps us to be less egocentric, a blessing. It can also be the mental space that allows us to think of (and the motivation to try) an alternative, another blessing. But silence can also heighten or even blow out of proportion our egocentricities, making them deadly. And it kills the "welcome" we wish we'd given or received.
From Day 1, I've been confronted with waiting and silence. The day of the order, the computer went down and so my order had to be entered a day later.
I've already discussed the fact that I've not been able to test drive a sample Volt at my dealer. That silence got him and I to thinking about and making my order contingent, a blessed alternative. I'll not discuss how much I put down on the contingent order, but reading others' posts on the WWW, they and their dealers have been similarly creative. However, my dealer has not yet received any Volts even though he ordered the 1st day he was able to do so, accursed silence.
Another cursed silence has surrounded the teaser lease offered on the Volt: $350+/mo. Chevrolet's website for the volt declares it, but the website has no other information. And, following both the 'current offers' and the 'calulate your monthly payments' links on that website fails to include any information on the lease and prohibits using the lease as one's means of financing. Web chatting with the Chevy rep online is another dead end. I've tried more than once and the only information they've been given in their scripts is the promo and it has not yet been updated. I checked again this week.
"Example based on MSRP. Each dealer sets its own price. Your payments may vary. Payments are for a 2011 Volt with an MSRP of $41,000. 36 monthly payments total $12,600. Option to purchase at lease end for an amount to be determined at lease signing. Lessor must approve lease. Lessee pays for excess wear. Not available with other offers. Residency restrictions apply. Payments are an example based on current market conditions; actual payments in late 2010 when sales commence may vary based on changes in market conditions, including but not limited to money factor and residual applicable to vehicle. Includes benefit of tax credit, which benefits the lessor."
My dealer, again, being the go getter that he is demonstrating himself to be discivered that the lease is NOT by GMAC, and they have had to create a business relationship with this new 3rd-party finance company. Not a biggy, but again GM, it reflects on both the product launch process and is TEACHing patience with ambiguous silience.
So far, I am getting the following responses from my kith and kin:
1) honest inquiry
2) wonder and doubt
Three friends in IT (information technology) have been most keen in asking me about the technology behind it. Another IT-type that has been following battery technology development, is a bit more wondering and skeptical as to how well GM has solved some of the problems that energy storage (batteries) and delivery entail. Two of my green energy friends (one is an owner of a 1st year Prius) are less interested in the techie aspects and more in the value of the plug-in aspect of the Volt. For example, how will it compare in energy efficiency to a Prius? ...Can PG&E give you any idea what % of their energy is renewable? ...Can you use solar panels on your roof to supply the total wattage (and possibly some spare) that the Volt will need for my driving habits? ...etc.
My spouse has asked much more practical questions: How much more will the Volt cost for a given month? What are our PG&E billing options and how will we be able to break-out your energy costs from the house as a whole (NOTE: we pay for our transportation costs individually in our home budget)? His sister is just as practical but focused on the driving experience: Will you like the 'umph' and turning radius (I currently drive a sports car that turns on a dime and has a pivot point about where the stick is located while she has driven/is test driving Acura, BMW and Mercedes)? ...Are the seats comfortable? ...Is it well enough equipped? ...How does it heat up the interior in the Winter and how fast is it in doing so?
Finally, I have some family members and a friend (from the MidWest) that are dismissive: You still need gas; it is not replacing gas. ...It is too expensive. ...Rush [Limbaugh] has said it only gets 40 miles on gas and electric. ...Rush and others have proven that the electricity is no cleaner than gasoline. ...etc.
I'll try to keep you informed what I discover.