Monday, September 1, 2008

Volt Waggin

On this Labor Day, let us pause to eulogize the 1,500 jobs at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Doraville, Georgia, jobs at American-dream wages that once paid 30-year mortgages without gimmicks or foreclosures, sent kids to college, and, yes, deluded UAW members into mistaking themselves for Republicans. Since 1947, your fathers’ Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs rolled off the assembly line in Doraville. For much of that time, General Motors made more than half the cars on the road in the United States. Then things changed. Look around today. In your driveway. Cars made in Japan, Korea, Germany, Sweeden.

The Doraville GM Assembly Plant will close down this month, and the 165 acre site it occupies will become prime real estate for For Sale. It is within easy walking distance of an existing station of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority north-south line. During any morning or evening rush-hour you can safely direct your gaze on the location as you sit hopelessly in gridlocked traffic on I-285, near Spaghetti Junction. GM is in the market for a real estate venturer with deep pockets and experience redeveloping “brownfields,” a charming invention to describe abandoned industrial carcasses likely containing pollution hazards. Potential developers see the site as another Atlantic Station, mixed-use urban commercial, residential, shopping, and entertainment. Lame duck DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones expects the redevelopment to create several thousand more jobs than the 1,500 lost. Get a clue, Mr. Jones. Service jobs. No unions.

Corporate clowns at GM clung to their BOPs and SUVs till gas prices skyrocketed out the sun-roof and profits fell through the floorboard. The suits in Detroit never saw the train coming and are still in denial. Now GM plans to make the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric hybrid, due to be in the showroom of your nearest Chevrolet dealership on a timetable by the end of 2010 or at the latest George Bush’s time horizon for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq six months later. However, the Chevy Volt will be made at the Detroit plant, not in Doraville. GM does not want to call the new Volt a hybrid, preferring instead extended-range electric vehicle. The Volt will run on batteries for up to 40 miles, the distance of 75 percent of U.S. daily commutes, which average about 33 miles. On the open highway, the potential range increases to 360 miles by using a small internal combustion engine to run a generator to resupply the batteries. Overnight recharge using a standard 120-volt, 15-amp household outlet will take a 10 hour plug-in at home. A half charge can be accomplished in 50 minutes.

The four-door sedan is expected to get 150 miles per gallon if the battery is fully charged every 60 miles. It will be capable of speeds up to 120 miles per hour. According to GM, the sticker price of the Volt will be in "the mid to high 30's," although some other estimates say more like $48,000. Maybe you better plan to get two of those new jobs at the mixed-use development that will replace the Doraville assembly plant. Nissan , Toyota, and Mitsubishi also have announced their own electric cars. If they can’t undercut GM’s price, the Chinese or somebody will.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

No comments:


Hit Counter
Boden Clothes