Yesterday, Bob Lutz, the “father of the Chevrolet Volt,” announced he will be consulting with VIA Motors as it seeks to build extended-range electric trucks, vans and SUVs.

The new role for the "car guy" with a heart for electrification should be right up his alley, and Lutz enthusiastically praised the 4WD-capable vehicles VIA has been developing.

Bob Lutz

“In my long career working with GM, Ford, Chrysler and BMW, I considered the Chevy Volt the most important car we had yet made,” Lutz said. “I am now pleased to join VIA Motors to expand the vision of extended range electric vehicles and help build the next generation of electrified trucks, vans and SUVs. I believe VIA’s extended range electric trucks will be a game changer, and drive the standard for clean, high performance, utility vehicles around the world.”

According to David West, VIA’s chief marketing officer, Lutz, 79, will help the Orem, Utah company get its foot in the door with automotive partnerships and fundraising.

West told Automotive News there will be no conflict for Lutz who is also contracted as an adviser with GM. Earlier this month, GM hired Lutz on a part-time basis to assist with product development, marketing and communications.

GM agreed that Lutz’s newest gig with VIA will not affect their relationship, although Lutz is otherwise limited in which companies he can consult with.

With the exception of Lotus, for which he has been a part-time adviser, Lutz said earlier this month that his contract precluded him from consulting with most automakers.

Not VIA's first former GM hire

Lutz has been privy to a wealth of knowledge about GM's extended-range vehicle program, and indeed he was signed up in no small part because of his GM ties.

Among former GM employees, his hiring now puts him in the company of VIA’s COO Alan Perriton, who ran GM Korea and is credited with creating the supply chain for the now-shuttered Saturn brand. Further, a lead engineer from the Volt development team, Nick Zielinski, is VIA’s chief engineer.

"His main role will be to help move this along, particularly with GM, but also with other OEMs," West said of Lutz. "This kind of thing needs a lot of high-level buy-in."

A Volt-like GM E-REV truck

VIA’s plug-in electric powertrains are fitted to Chevrolet Silverados purchased from GM.

Its E-REV pickup travels a Volt-like 40 miles on a charge before the small gasoline genset kicks on.

VIA E-REV platform.

Yesterday Lutz emailed Automotive News, saying the extended-range concept "makes even more sense, economically, in large vehicles" than in smaller cars like the Volt. The goal, he said, is to "duplicate the Volt proposition for pick-ups and large SUVs. This will get these popular vehicles into the 100-mpg range."

It would appear as ALTe is doing for Ford-based trucks, VIA is doing for GM-based trucks.

Similarly, VIA will be testing about 35 of its plug-in vehicles with fleet customers – most being utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric.

VIA's Web site says it will begin fleet sales this year, with retail sales planned for 2013.

"Trucks have been notorious for poor fuel economy in the past," said VIA COO, Perriton, "but when electrified, they can have a much greater impact on reducing oil consumption and emissions than smaller vehicles, while offering a much faster payback."

Automotive News (Subscription Req'd)