Intending to spur interest for its present production, GM has tried to cap information leaks about next-generation Chevrolet Volts, but last week a few tidbits were revealed about both Generation 2 and 3.

According to Alan Taub, GM vice president for global research and development, Chevrolet is “on track” to cut production costs, while GM's R&D people know for certain that efficiency and electronics for the next two generations will be significantly improved.

This was reported by the Detroit News from the sidelines of the SAE World Congress last Wednesday, and it fits with a mandate GM CEO Dan Akerson previously made to cut the Volt’s production cost by $10,000.

The Volt has won more awards than can be squeezed into a normal-length photo caption, but it appears that GM already has a good idea of what it will do for an encore.

"We have a cost reduction plan all the way through 2020 and Generation 3," said Taub, “In fact, we've been challenged by our new leadership team to pull those earlier in time, and we're on track to meet our new cost reduction targets."

From these statements, it would seem clear Taub means that GM has closely analyzed the determiners of the Volt's cost, including its engineering and production requirements for the next nine years.

Taub did not reply when asked whether the expected cost reduction would specifically be $10,000, but he did say the Gen 2 Volt will be altogether better.

"It's got a lot of improvements. It's not just cost," Taub said. "It's got a lot of improvement on efficiency, on batteries."

These statements essentially mean a more advanced Volt is just waiting for the present version to go through its cycle. Taub also said Generation 3 will come along by no later than 2020.

Taub gave no details about what he meant by "a lot of improvements ... on efficiency and batteries." Could he mean GM already has a Volt prototype with more EV range, or a less expensive version that would not erode profit margins?

Getting the Volt's production costs down is a mandate GM says it will meet.

If we read Taub's statements accurately, these implications would not be hard to believe. Improving the breed is what automakers that want to stay competitive do as a matter of course.

But if GM does have a clear road map to the Volt's next decade, unknown is how it would respond to a sharp kink in the proverbial R&D road. For example, what would it mean if promises of superior energy storage were to become a reality? Could GM respond without costing itself too much from having already made financial commitments to existing designs?

We have no idea, and do not have enough facts to make reasonable predictions. All we will say is talk of R&D objectives and design plans through 2020 being met mean GM is spending significant time and money toward the Volt's future.

In any case, when we followed up with GM spokesman Rob Peterson, he offered no elaboration on specifics, but did clarify a few details.

“Much of what we do on cost reduction is part of the normal life cycle of any vehicle,” Peterson said.

"First a manufacturer gets the vehicle in production and on the market.” he said, “Then you look for ways to reduce the cost of it over its general life cycle.”

The first-generation Volt is a solidly engineered car. As with any new technology, the argument always presents itself whether or not to wait. Good reasons could be presented for either proposition.

While Peterson was not familiar with Taub’s comments, he said he knows no details to tell, even if he wanted to, and said it might be a bit of a leap of faith to connect what Taub said with Akerson’s previous cost reduction target.

Peterson also reiterated the difference between “cost” and MSRP.

“The price is based on the current market conditions – supply, demand, and things along those lines,” he said, “They are definitely separated.”

We replied this was understood, but as for future upgrades it seemed quite leading what Taub had said. We also said we did not know why he was talking about Gen 3 when Gen 2 was not even yet known about.

Peterson did not deny the first half of our statement, and to the second half, he laughed. “You just asked the question I was going to ask Alan Taub the next time I see him,” he said.

Source: Detroit News