Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unusual “ride-share” program experiment in Washington DC

I don't have a huge respect for GM but this is pretty brilliant.

Unusual “ride-share” program in Washington DC provides a steady source of new test riders.

“Slugging” in Washington is a system of ride sharing so that cars can meet the three occupant requirement for using HOV lanes. Randomness of passengers provided an easy way to get a lot of feedback on the new Malibu - and maybe get some word-of-mouth buzz as well.

HOV Lanes

Cars offering rides and passengers looking for a ride (Slugs) meet at predetermined locations inside and outside the city. The driver announces his or her destination and the first person in line for that destination hops in for the ride. In the evening the process is reversed.

A couple of interns working at Chevrolet’s Northeast Regional office came up with the idea to use the system to obtain first-hand consumer reactions to the Malibu. For five weeks after the Washington DC Auto Show, regional employees joined the Slug vehicle lines in the morning and afternoon, offering complete strangers rides in the new Malibu.

Approximately 800 informal test rides were completed during the five-week program. Slug riders offer an interesting base from which to solicit reaction to the newly redesigned and highly touted Malibu. Because the Slug system is so random, riders get to experience just about every type and model of automobile, truck and whatever else makes its way into a Slug line.

2008 Chevrolet Malibu - a born rental car?

Their opinions could be more valuable than the average person met at a dealership. They certainly provide a much wider basis of comparison when it comes to the ride experience in different cars

According to a report in the Washington Times, John Konkel, Chevrolet’s marketing manager for the region says that the feedback has been very positive. According to Konkel, the riders were very impressed with the OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system and that the vehicle had a 110-volt outlet for their portable electronics.

A GM Executive Manager comments. Stay tuned.

Slugging has existed in the DC area since the early 70s. More information can be found at

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GM prepared to take loss on Volt

As much as I like to tease the electric car makers, the Chevy Volt is slightly impressive (it just looks so cool). Good luck GM!

Carmaker to stick with plug-in through initial sales; admits mistake in early hybrid strategy.

David Shepardson and Eric Morath / The Detroit News

General Motors Corp. could some day sell more than 500,000 Chevrolet Volts annually worldwide, but the company is preparing to lose money "for years" on the range-extended electric vehicle, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said Wednesday.

This car is so cool.

While speaking to a group of Volt fanatics at the New York International Auto Show, Lutz said it was a mistake that GM didn't beat Toyota Motor Corp. to market with hybrid vehicles even though the Detroit automaker had electric vehicle technology dating back to the 1960s.

He said GM won't make that error again, even if it means losing money on initial Volt sales.

"We won't make a dime on this car for years, and the board is OK with that," he said. GM was hesitant to go to market with hybrids a decade ago because he said the automaker was likely to lose $250 million a year selling such vehicles.

Lutz said being late to the market with hybrids has cost GM billions in sales because it lost its image of having superior technology.

GM's initial estimates of 60,000 to 100,000 annual Volt sales could grow five-fold, Lutz said, adding that the car is a "game changer" on par with the Ford Model T.

More than 100 Volt fans accepted GM's invitation to attend the New York show and meet executives.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Electric cars start to gain some traction as dealerships sprout up

Alternative car dealers sell alternative power

Ecomotion is not a typical car dealership, reports the New York Times. First, there is the coffee shop just inside the front door. Second, the cars in the showroom are small and shaped a little funny. Some have only three wheels; one is available in a zebra print. All are powered by electric motors.

Ecomotion opened last September and has so far sold about 125 automobiles, including some used hybrids that are kept in a separate showroom. Ecomotion has become one of the top-selling electric vehicle dealerships in the country, selling cars from Zap and Myers Motors.

the ZENN 500 - Powerwheels for a grown-up?

There are now dozens of dealerships in the country selling electric vehicles, including those made by Zap, the Zenn Motor Company and Myers. Many dealerships sell models from several companies.

“Dealerships are what we need more than anything right now,” said Alex Campbell, a Zap spokesman. He said there were about 50 independent dealerships that sell its car, with the majority on the West Coast.

Don't laugh at me please - ZAP Automotive Marketing USA

Though there are E.V. dealerships around the country, many are taking advantage of the West Coast’s fusion of car culture and green sensibilities.

Alternative power once had the alternative lifestyle image of hippie owners driving odd vehicles. Many dealers said that buyers were now people concerned about the environment or Hollywood types looking for eco-cachet.

For celebrities looking to make a statement, Tesla promises that its E.V. sports car will hit the streets sometime this year. The first Tesla dealership is scheduled to open in Los Angeles, possibly in April.

The Tesla Roadster: Very cool - I want one!

Buying a car from an E.V. dealership is similar to buying from a traditional dealer. Many dealerships offer test drives and financing, and service the cars they sell. But there are also differences — they could actually try to talk you out of buying the car.

The dealers said they needed to make sure the car is right for the buyer. The sales staff has to explain that driving a limited number of miles at a limited speed is feasible for most people, but not for everyone. Drivers with highway, hilly or long commutes should buy something else.

The Myers NMG electric car. (this picture might become my icon on some automotive forum. Hmmmm maybe).


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