Chevrolet Launches The Volt — On Time and As Scheduled!

October 10, 2010

It’s 10-10-10…and just as promised, Chevrolet today announced that it’s game-changing Volt is officially on the market. Just yesterday GM exhibited a production Volt in Tacoma, WA as it heads cross-country to illustrate its road trip flexibility.

GM’s future hinges on this car, because as Bob Lutz told me a couple years ago, the Volt’s plug-in technology will soon be offered in every front-wheel-drive car in the corporation’s portfolio. Although I have been ultra-critical of GM in the past, I have been an outspoken supporter of the Volt technology and GM’s plug-in business plan.

The press release keys on the primary advantages that will make the Volt a winner: insanely high real-world MPG (or cost per mile) without the need for a second car — which differentiates it from the Leaf and all of the other thousands of battery-only powered vehicles offered for sale since the late 1800s.

Here is the official press release. Let the Prius market share decline begin!

2011 Chevrolet Volt Reinvents Automotive Transportation In A Complete, No-Compromises Electric Package
2010-10-10
World’s first mass-produced, plug-in electric vehicle with a range-extending onboard engine
Revolutionary Voltec propulsion system delivers between 25 and 50 miles of electric driving (depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature) with a long-life, 16-kW lithium-ion battery and 111-kW (149-hp) electric drive unit; and up to 310 miles of extended range with an onboard 1.4L engine
Eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on lithium-ion battery pack
Vehicle dynamics, upscale materials, refinement and spirited performance of a premium sports sedan in an ultra-efficient package
Extensive use of high-strength steel and full suite of vehicle safety technologies provide occupant protection before, during and after a crash
Easy-to-use technologies such as configurable displays, Chevrolet Mobile App powered by OnStar MyLink, and MyVolt.com web portal enhance owner experience
Five years of OnStar Directions and Connections service, including Automatic Crash Response, stolen vehicle assistance and connected navigation
DETROIT – Chevrolet today introduced the all-new, 2011 Volt electric vehicle with extended range, establishing an entirely new segment in the global automotive market. The five-door, four-passenger Volt is designed to provide the benefits of an electric vehicle without the range limitations associated with other electric vehicles in the market.

“The Chevrolet Volt can be the only car you own,” said Mark Reuss, president, GM North America. “The Volt delivers it all: a revolutionary propulsion system, progressive styling, industry-leading safety, premium amenities and user-friendly technologies, and spirited driving dynamics.”

Designed, engineered, built and delivered to customers in 29 months, the Volt will go on sale at Chevrolet dealers before the end of 2010. It is offered in one very well-equipped standard trim level, along with two option packages: a Premium Trim Package and a Rear Camera and Park Assist Package.

The Volt is in a class by itself

The Chevrolet Volt is not a hybrid. It is a one-of-a-kind, all-electrically driven vehicle designed and engineered to operate in all climates. Powered by GM’s revolutionary Voltec propulsion system, it consists of a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric drive unit that provide pure electric range between 25 and 50 miles, depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature. A 1.4L gasoline-powered engine extends the range up to an additional 310 miles on a full tank of fuel by operating the vehicle’s electric drive system until the car can be plugged in and recharged or refueled. This distinguishes the Volt from electric-only vehicles, which cannot be operated when recharging is not immediately available – such as during a power interruption or on a long-distance trip.

“The Chevrolet Volt makes the electric driving experience as productive, efficient, intuitive, safe and fun as any premium vehicle its size in the market today,” said Doug Parks, Volt global vehicle line executive.

Every major element of the Volt was designed and analyzed for efficiency, including its highly aerodynamic exterior, lightweight wheels, specially designed tires, energy-saving premium stereo system, and more. This attention to detail makes the Volt one of the most aerodynamic and energy-efficient vehicles in the market.

The Volt redefines electric drive

The heart of the Chevrolet Volt is its Voltec propulsion system, which combines pure electric drive and an efficient, range-extending engine, giving to the Volt up to 350 total miles of range.

The Volt’s long-life battery consists of a 5.5-foot, 435-pound (198.1 kg) T-shaped, 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack manufactured in Brownstown Township, Mich. It supplies energy to an advanced, 111-kW (149-hp) electric drive unit to propel the vehicle. Using only the energy stored in the battery, the Volt delivers between 25 and 50 miles of fuel- and tailpipe emissions-free electric driving, depending on terrain, driving techniques and temperature.

The Volt battery is designed to deliver value, safety, quality, performance, durability and reliability. It is covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty. Since 2007, GM engineers have completed more than one million miles and four million hours of validation testing of Volt battery packs, as well as each pack’s nine modules and 288 prismatic cells. The development, validation and test teams have met thousands of specifications and validated each of the Volt battery’s 161 components, 95 percent of which GM designed and engineered.

“Our customers are making a commitment to technology that will help reduce our dependence on petroleum,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director, global electrical systems. “In turn, we commit to deliver the highest standards for value, safety, quality, performance and reliability to our customers.”

When the battery energy is depleted, the Volt seamlessly transitions to extended-range mode. Power is inverted from a technically advanced, 1.4L 63-kW (84-hp) gasoline-powered onboard engine to the electric drive unit to provide up to 310 additional miles of range.

The Volt proves electric driving can be spirited. Not only does the Volt reach a top speed of 100 mph, the electric drive unit’s excellent low speed torque of 273 lb.-ft. (368 Nm) takes it from 0 to 60 mph in less than 9.0 seconds and the quarter mile in less than 17.0 seconds.

Charging the Volt’s battery is simple and intuitive, and can be done through 120V conventional household electrical outlets, or through a dedicated 240V charging station. The vehicle is completely rechargeable in about four hours using a 240V outlet and 10 to 12 hours in a 120V outlet. Once the vehicle is plugged in, owners can schedule either immediate or delayed charges, even coordinating charging according to departure time or when electricity rates are lower. Owners also can manage and monitor the Volt remotely via computer on MyVolt.com; or an exclusive smart phone application, Chevrolet Mobile App powered by OnStar MyLink.

The Volt is designed and refined to impress

The Chevrolet Volt’s bold, sleek, performance-oriented stance conveys its electrically driven capabilities, and looks like an upscale, midsize sport sedan. This is made possible by its wide front and rear tracks (61.2 / 62.1 inches [1556 / 1578 mm]), 105.7-inch (2685 mm) wheelbase, wheels-out stance, sculpted belt line and premium execution.

“The Volt is a revolutionary car, and we wanted the design to make as sleek and dynamic a statement as possible,” said Bob Boniface, director of design. “When you look at this car, it’s very technical and refined in its execution, with lots of interrelating surfaces that bring clean, crisp edges and creases.”

Working closely with aerodynamicists in GM’s own wind tunnel to shape the Volt, design and engineering teams developed the most aerodynamic vehicle in Chevrolet’s history. By reducing the energy needed to overcome air resistance, Volt aerodynamicists contributed an estimated eight miles of electric range, and 50 miles of extended range.

The Volt’s rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and grille enable air to move easily around the car to reduce drag. In the rear, sharp edges and a carefully designed spoiler control air flow. An aggressive rake on the windshield and back glass also helps reduce turbulence and drag.

Inside and out, element-to-element gap and flush relationships are as good or better than any in the segment. Even the underhood compartment is not overlooked: All components are held to a high standard of appearance that harmonizes with the rest of the car, using similarly grained surfaces and colors.

The distinctive, gloss black rear liftgate appliqué carries the Chevrolet bowtie and one of two Volt insignias; the other is found on the forward quarter panel. Six exterior colors are offered on the Volt, including Viridian Joule Tricoat, the winning name chosen in a national contest held last year. The others are Silver Ice Metallic, Black and Cyber Gray Metallic, Crystal Red Metallic Tintcoat and White Diamond Tricoat.

Inside, the Volt offers the space, comfort, convenience and safety features that customers expect in a premium five-door sedan – including storage compartments and 40/40 rear-folding seats. It also delivers them in a variety of interior color, lighting and trim options unlike any offered before on a Chevrolet sedan, but with Chevrolet’s signature dual cockpit design.

Two, seven-inch, high-resolution full-color screens are featured: One is a reconfigurable graphic cluster display and the other, in the center stack, features a touch screen display, touch-control switches and integrated shifter.

The graphics in the instrument panel and door inserts are repeated in the premium cloth or available leather-appointed seats. Bright silver appointments appear around the door switches, center cup holders, door pulls, centerstack switches and climate control outlets. Standard infotainment features include:

Navigation radio with 60-GB (30 GB for music storage) hard disc drive, AM/FM/DVD-Rom/MP3 playback capability, voice recognition, Radio Data System, Bluetooth and pause-and-play radio functions
XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic/Weather, one of the industry’s most advanced, real-time information systems
Premium, energy-saving Bose audio system with six speakers and subwoofer
Five years of OnStar Directions and Connections service.
In addition to enhancing safety and solidity, the Volt’s stiff structure accommodates features that help to isolate engine and wind noise for a whisper-quiet cabin.

The Volt features excellent driving dynamics

Great driving dynamics begin with a solid body-frame-integral structure that enables optimal tuning and provides drivers with an enhanced sense of stability, solidity and confident road manners.

The Volt’s MacPherson strut-type suspension, sophisticated compound crank rear axle and quick-reacting, rack-mounted electric power steering system with ZF steering gear – a feature commonly found on premium sport sedans – have been tuned to deliver a smooth, refined ride with responsive handling and solid, on-center feel. A low center of gravity combines with the wider track and long wheelbase for balanced performance, and front and rear hydraulic ride bushings, another premium addition, help eliminate road harshness.

The electro-hydraulic regenerative brake system captures energy up to 0.2g for transfer back to the battery. The friction braking system features large rotors with a special finishing process that protects against corrosion and promotes longer life.

The Volt rides on lightweight aluminum wheels that weigh only 17.8 pounds (8.1 kg) each, compared to 24.2 pounds (11 kg) for typical 17-inch wheels. They’re wrapped in Goodyear Fuel Max all-season, low-rolling resistance tires optimized for electric vehicle range, noise, feel and performance.

The Volt features Chevrolet’s continuous safety

Like all Chevrolet vehicles, the Volt helps protect occupants before, during and – thanks to OnStar – after a crash. Crash-avoidance features include standard anti-lock brakes with traction control, StabiliTrak electronic stability control and advanced, LED daytime running lamps that make the Volt more visible to other motorists and pedestrians.

Occupant protection continues with a strong structure, and the Chevrolet Volt’s body-frame-integral structure strategically blends advanced steels to help ensure crashworthiness and stiffness. Nearly 80 percent of the Volt’s overall structure consists either of high-strength, advanced high-strength or ultra high-strength steel. Active occupant protection features include eight standard air bags and safety belts with dual pretensioners to help reduce the risk of injury.

After a crash, the Chevrolet Volt offers the security of OnStar, which uses built-in vehicle sensors to automatically alert an OnStar advisor in certain types of collisions. The advisor is immediately connected to the vehicle and can request that emergency help be sent to its location.

Because the Volt operates so quietly in all-electric mode, a driver-activated feature sounds a noise to alert pedestrians, particularly those with visual impairments, in an intersection. The alert was developed in conjunction with the American Federation of the Blind.

The Volt connects with owners 24/7

There is much more technology inside the Volt than its electric propulsion system. Intuitive features such as high-resolution displays, connectivity and the ability to monitor and control vehicle functions remotely redefine how owners interface with their vehicles.

Key technologies include:

Touch-control switch system on the center console
High-resolution, seven-inch, full-color LCD reconfigurable Driver Information Center display. The display shows electric-only range, fuel economy, , extended-range, trip information, tire pressure information and other key vehicle messages.
High-resolution, seven-inch, full-color, center stack-mounted touch screen display that serves as the interface for infotainment and cabin climate controls. An Efficiency (Leaf) switch accesses energy usage, power flow and charging screens – all easy to use and understand.
Charge modes are customizable according to need and electricity rates for efficient programming and lower costs.
A key fob that allows drivers to remotely start the vehicle and precondition the cabin based on outside temperatures
An exclusive mobile app, powered by OnStar MyLink, that enables owners to engage with the Volt functions using a smart phone.
Volt warranties bring value and peace of mind

Volt owners receive outstanding battery and vehicle limited warranty coverage. In addition to the eight-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on the Volt’s 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, Chevrolet will provide:

Three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage
Five-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance and courtesy transportation
Five-year/100,000-mile limited gas engine coverage
Six-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection coverage.


Volt Goes Cross-Country To Show Why It’s A True Paradigm Shift

September 30, 2010

GM announced today that a team of new Chevy Volts will go cross country to show the benefits of its plug-in hybrid. Actually, it is more of an exhibit why the Leaf and other battery-only vehicles are nothing more than toys requiring owners to have another car in the garage.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the days of Prius rule for mileage-minded folks is over. More importantly, the era of gasoline (or diesel)-only travel is winding down. As Bob Lutz told me two years ago: “all of our front-wheel-drive cars will be standardized on Volt technology.”

The game changer is real — and going across America to prove it. Here’s the full release:

Power to the People – Chevrolet Unplugs Volt and Hits the Road
Cross-country drive brings the Chevrolet Volt directly to consumers
2010-09-29

DETROIT — A caravan of Chevrolet Volts will embark on a 3,400-mile, cross-country drive showcasing how easy it will be to live with the world’s first electric vehicle with extended-range capability.

The tour, dubbed “Volt Unplugged,” will give consumers an opportunity to test-drive the Volt, meet the people behind the development of the vehicles – Chevrolet engineers, designers and others – and participate in activities at each stop.

“The Volt Unplugged tour will give people a chance to get behind the wheel of the Volt and find out for themselves what makes this vehicle so special,” said Tony DiSalle, Chevrolet Volt product and marketing director. “This drive will demonstrate the one-of-a-kind capabilities of the Volt, the only electric vehicle able to drive such long distances under a variety of driving conditions and climates without having to stop to recharge.”

The tour is similar to July’s “Freedom Drive,” where the Volt completed a three-day 1,776-mile drive from Austin, Texas to New York City to demonstrate the Volt’s extended-range capability. Stops on the Volt Unplugged tour include:

Oct. 9 and 10 – Seattle
Oct. 13 and 14 – San Francisco
Oct. 16 – 18 – Los Angeles
Oct. 20 – San Diego
Oct. 22 and 23 – San Antonio
Oct. 24 and 25 – Houston
Oct. 28 and 29 – Miami
Oct. 30 – Orlando
Oct. 29 and 30 – Washington, D.C.
Nov. 1 – Raleigh, N.C.
Nov. 5 – 7 – New York City
Nov. 18 – 20 – Chicago
Along the drive, Chevrolet representatives will reach out to local community leaders, schools and consumers to educate each group about the one-of-a-kind characteristics of the Volt and discuss the progress of the nation’s electrical infrastructure. There will also be many opportunities to sit in and/or drive one of six Volts that will be on tour.

Marriott International and its Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlaces Suites hotels will serve as the hotel supplier of the Volt Unplugged Tour. Marriott has a long-standing commitment to protecting the environment, building greener hotels, minimizing energy and water use, reducing impacts along its supply chain and investing in conservation projects worldwide. For customers looking to travel in style with a lighter footprint, the Volt and Marriott offer a great solution.

Fans can follow the Volt’s journey and register for test-drive opportunities on the “Unplugged” tab located at ChevroletVoltAge.com, the Volt’s official social network or on the Chevrolet Volt Facebook page. Participants in the tour will share updates using the Volt’s many online platforms including the @ChevyVolt Twitter account, the Chevrolet Posterous page and the Chevrolet Volt Foursquare account. These platforms will feature photos, videos and text updates to keep consumers updated on the tour.

On a fully charged battery and tank of gas, the Volt has a driving range of hundreds of miles. Because the Volt can use gasoline to create its own electricity in extended-range mode, long trips are possible. The Volt is powered only from electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery for a typical range of 25 to 50 miles depending on terrain, driving technique, temperature and battery age. When the Volt’s battery runs low, a gas engine-generator seamlessly engages to extend the driving range

The Chevrolet Volt starts production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck facility this fall and will be sold in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan and Washington D.C. Quantities will be limited. The Volt will be sold nationwide about 12-18 months after start of production.

The Volt’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price is $41,000 ($33,500 net of the full federal tax credit, which ranges from $0-$7,500) including a destination freight charge of $720. GM expects to offer qualified lessees a price as low as $350/month with $2,500 down at lease signing, including security deposit based on current conditions, which could vary at time of delivery. The benefit of the $7,500 tax credit is included in the reduced lease payment, with the tax credit going to the lessor. The lease term is 36 months with 12,000 miles per year.


The Dangers Of “Connected” Automobiles

May 14, 2010

Back in November of 2009 I detailed my concerns regarding the safety and security of automobiles as they become more integrated with Web and telephony networks in an article called Forget H1N1 — How Computer Viruses Could Kill Cars And Those In Them In The Near Future. I proposed that good hackers could literally expose and utilize one small hole — be it in a two-way nav, diagnostic or other system to cause dangerous issues with internal engine, braking, handling, or a number of other management systems.

And my story was met with a collective: “yeah, sure.”

Actually, a few of my more tech-based friends found my analysis interesting and very real. It was one of these folks who today pointed me to a study done by University of Washington and University of California San Diego students. Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile from K. Koscher, A. Czeskis, F. Roesner, S. Patel, T. Kohno, S. Checkoway, D. McCoy, B. Kantor, D. Anderson, H. Shacham, S. Savage was just presented at The IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, Oakland, CA, May 16-19, 2010 and goes more in depth and comes to similar conclusions. Indeed they expose just how easy hacking into cars might actually be.

Read the UW/UCSD study for yourself at http://www.autosec.org/pubs/cars-oakland2010.pdf and tell me you still aren’t interested or concerned with the issues of safety and security in modern and future network-connected automobiles.


Stop Saying It’s Driver Error — It’s A Symptom Of Toyota’s Electrical Design Flaw

March 4, 2010

People keep asking me if I have taken my 2006 Toyota Avalon into the dealership to have the recalls performed to prevent catastrophic throttle sticking. When I tell them that I haven’t and don’t plan to until a new recall comes out they are shocked, although they shouldn’t be.

Here’s the reason: My gut reaction was that the recalls were not salient to the core throttle issue. This was reinforced with Toyota USA President James Lentz’s testimony to the Congressional hearing last week. Here’s a snippet of the interaction:

Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): Do you believe that the recall on the carpet changes and the recall on the sticky pedal will solve the problem of sudden unintended acceleration?

Mr. LENTZ: Not totally.

It would be easy to throw me in with the majority of auto journalists who have already come out with their typical knee-jerk reaction that all catastrophic vehicle problems are the result of driver error. I’m in the minority…possibly due to my life as a technical products manager prior to becoming a writer. I’m under the impression that when a collision rate for a specific make or model is significantly higher than average for the type of vehicle, driver error is a symptom, not a cause. In other words — if the argument is that people are indeed hitting the throttle instead of the brake (as was the blame in Audi 5000s) leading to fatal accidents at a larger rate compared to a nearly identical competitor, as a product marketing professional, I still call that, at minimum, a design flaw in respect to pedal size/placement/offset.

In the case of Toyota, it’s much more serious than the physical size, location and layout of the pedals. Most auto journalists did not pay close attention to Professor David Gilbert’s testimony. Professor Gilbert was able to prove that Toyota’s accelerators could become stuck at wide-open-throttle yet not send an error code. Quite simply, unlike every other major automaker utilizing a drive-by-wire system, Toyota keeps the throttle and failsafe on the same voltage plane and the error code is triggered only if the resistance is too high or too low (much like GM ignition security systems in the 1980s and 1990s).

Toyota claims that what Professor Gilbert did to short the system (ie — using a resistor between the wires) shouldn’t happen in the real world. Gilbert has since gone on television programs to show how a simple chafing of wires -could- cause the issue in a predictable and repeatable fashion. Toyota finally invited Professor Gilbert to prove his theory at Toyota’s USA HQ, but this was after completely disregarding the possibility of it being true via PR statements. Unfortunately, given the fact that seems to be the lone major design difference between Toyotas and similar non-surging cars, discounting Gilbert prematurely might be a colossal mistake on Toyota’s part.

At the end of the day, we know this issue more serious than driver error. One need only read the testimony of Rhonda Smith, whose Lexus surged to over 100mph and wouldn’t shift to neutral. After the throttle mysteriously released, her faded brakes were finally able to stop the car, at which time she turned off the engine. When her husband arrived he placed the car into neutral so the tow truck could pull it, at which time the vehicle attempted to start itself like it was straight out of Steven King’s Christine. Think Mr. and Mrs. Smith were lying? The tow truck driver signed an avadavat, because he witnessed the whole damn thing.

Driver error, my ass!


Toyoda Goes To D.C. — Part Ni

February 24, 2010

I’m giving my awards for best questions by Members of Congress to two individuals representing totally different political backgrounds. Rep. Chaffetz from Provo, UT, a young guy asked great questions regarding if Toyoda and Inaba believed:

  • NHTSA was at all influenced by American unions?
  • Toyota was treated the same way by NHTSA as GM, Ford, etc..?
  • NHTSA and Toyota (or any other automaker) were too “close”?
  • If the two former NHTSA employees represented a too close relationship.

    All very non-Congressional-like questions, because they were important, concise and thoughtful. They were answered with “no”, “yes”, “no”, and an explanation that the two employees are experts in their fields, and are an asset no matter from which organization they were recruited.

    Then Dennis Kucinich asked if Toyota ever had meetings to discuss the financial considerations of a recall (or discuss with attorneys the financial impact of admitting a problem). When the answer seemed too generic, Rep. Kucinich clarified and asked for specific, direct answers. The answers from Toyoda and Inaba: no discussions, and nothing is worth more to Toyota than customer trust.


  • Toyoda Talks to Congress

    February 24, 2010

    Mr. Toyoda of Toyota is speaking in a Congressional hearing right now. He did what seemingly no other company head testifying in front of Congress has ever done: accept responsibility and apologize. The Members of the Congressional Committee almost don’t know what to do with themselves, since they’re used to typical corporate legal talk and skirting admissions of guilt.

    Most importantly, Toyota committed on record to start sharing problem reporting data collected via dealer networks and consumer telephone lines with the NHTSA, which would make it the first auto company to do so.

  • Mr. Toyoda read his opening remarks in English, but has used a translator for questions and answers.
  • Mr. Yoshimi Inaba, COO and head of Toyota NA has been responding to questions in English. He bears a striking physical and vocal similarity to George “Lt. Sulu” Takei.
  • Both Republicans and Democrats have asked some interesting questions of Toyota representatives, as well as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Dems and GOP can’t agree on much, but they seem to be in agreement that having no real standards for how a car gets recalled isn’t great and gives credence to conspiracy theorists who actually do believe that GM and Ford get off easier than Toyota.
  • The huge exception is Eleanor Holmes Norton, Representative from D.C., who continues to a) show a complete lack of understanding of cars and the industry, b) keeps hinting that the best course of action is more laws, regluations and requirements (for black boxes, etc…) and c) even demanded to know if her own personal Toyota Camry Hybrid “would EVER be recalled” after complaining that she bought the car reluctantly, because the Americans didn’t produce hybrids. When Mr. Inaba responded that her car is American, being built in America with largely American-sourced parts, EHN responded with “so you’re saying it’s the American’s fault?” She couldn’t understand that Mr. Inaba was simply saying that she bought an American car — more American than many so-called American cars, but EHN couldn’t grasp the concept, instead believing that Mr. Toyoda and Mr. Inaba were skirting blame. Thank god she has no vote!!!

  • Conspiracy Theorists Unite: Are Toyota’s Problems A Part of The US Government Stimulus Plan?

    February 22, 2010

    I’m going to throw a Flintstone wooly mammoth-sized bone to the conspiracy theorists out there. It is possible that Toyota’s recent problems are rooted in a plot by the US government to recoup its investment in GM and spur job growth in other American factories related to domestic auto production?

    Simply put, America has a lot riding on the success of GM and Ford. For starters, there’s the bailout cash thrown at GM. (Hey, what’s five or ten billion dollars between friends?) Then there are the hundreds of thousands of jobs directly related to auto production…and millions indirectly linked.

    Of course, one cannot discount the ego factor. In a country where American Exceptionalism is a religion (albeit, usually by the most world-average examples of our society), the fact that Toyota was the best selling brand has the flag-waving Camaro-driving masses (who don’t realize the all-American Camaro has long been built in Canada) close to total cardiac arrest.

    So one must ask: what is the easiest way to stimulate GM and Ford’s sales, creating more jobs to meet higher demand, and allowing GM to repay its loans from the government? The answer seems to be: take out number one Toyota.

    “Attack your competitor’s largest strength” is right from the Karl Rove playbook. In Toyota’s case, its sales are based on a long-standing reputation for quality. Unlike Ford and GM, which can only advertise their own individual wins in quality surveys, good old Uncle Sam can annihilate a reputation with one good press conference. After all, the regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can put into doubt everything you’ve believed about a vehicle and the company that produced it by issuing a well publicized recall with some additional words about a possible cover-up.

    Over 400 million vehicles have been the subject of automotive recalls since 1966. That’s an average of almost 9.1 million recalled vehicles every single year. There are about four million Toyotas involved in recalls right now, and that number could climb if the Corolla is recalled. Keep in mind, though, that over 14 million Fords were recalled for faulty cruise control units that could literally catch fire with the vehicle inactive in a garage and burn down a house while the owners slept.

    While the Ford recall (as well as the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire one) were top news for a while, neither had the government calling into question the automaker’s business practices in a similar way to the current Toyota recall. Indeed, for a fairly limited number of reported issues, the company’s best-selling products have been tainted. Basically, the only Toyotas of mass interest not on the list are the Sienna minivan and the company’s Tundra and Tacoma trucks.

    Kill number one, make Ford and GM leaders again and promote American financial interest. Sounds plausible, huh?

    Actually, conspiracy theorists and anti-government types — maybe it’s just that Toyota has been producing cut-cornered products for years and it has taken America decades to cut through the marketing to realize that Toyota is really no better than Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Hyundai, or Nissan. Tell people enough times that something is high quality, and even when it isn’t working right, the owners will ignore the issue and maintain the illusion. Perception is exactly how JD Powers surveys for initial and long-term vehicle quality can time-and-time-again find huge differences between nearly identical badge-engineered vehicles from different brands.

    At least Toyota can rest peacefully knowing that whether its quality issues are real or a government conspiracy, people have been buying Land Rovers and VWs for over a half-century, and they’ve always been made like crap.