Is Chevy Volt the “iPhone” of the automobile industry?

July 6th, 2012 Posted in About Chevy Volt

Chevrolet Volt hovering over iPhone

Could this car be to the automotive industry what the iPhone was to the telecommunications industry? A true game changer? I think it could really be that big a deal.

Some might think that comparing the Chevrolet Volt to the iPhone in their impact on their respective industries might be a bit grandiose but I am not so sure. Let’s recall for a moment, the effect the release of the iPhone had on the telecom industry. It changed everything. Single purpose devices (phones) now had to be multipurpose devices (phone, music player, web browser, more). You no longer pushed buttons on your phone but rather touched a smooth glass surface. Service carriers didn’t control this device, the manufacturer (Apple) did!

So how about the Chevy Volt then? For years manufacturers and entrepreneurs alike have been working on alternative ways of fueling and driving our automobiles. We have electric plug-ins, hybrids, hydrogen power, natural gas, solar and even cooking oil conversions. What makes the Volt significant?

The Chevy Volt takes what looks like the most reasonable and scalable solution on the market, hybrid power, flips the equation 180 degrees and it makes perfect sense! Most hybrids will give you some power drive from the electronic source briefly. However, if you ask just a tiny bit more of the power plant in a hybrid vehicle you are very quickly burning gas. With the Chevy Volt everything is flipped around. The Volt defaults to electric first and stays there. The Volt only moves over to gasoline generated power if and when the energy available from the on-board battery is depleted. It’s the reverse and it is inspired thinking.

But how does this suggest the Chevy Volt is the “iPhone” to the auto industry? Remember again what happened when the iPhone was released in 2007. Everyone could see that using a phone would be different, very different. Over the next two years the major competitors to Apple were scrambling to create their own comparable versions of the touch screen smartphone wonder. Eventually they did reach the market but by this time Apple was already two years down the road and introducing even more compelling products to chase. Even today, some five years later, every smartphone brought to market is compared to the iPhone as a benchmark.

With the Chevy Volt there seem to be some parallels. Other manufacturers working on their alternative solutions are taking note of the Volt and its philosophy. Take BMW for example which is working towards a 2014 release of the BMW i8. Some automotive media are pointing to the i8 as a loose replication of the Volt’s powertrain configuration. It is an especially tempting comparison when you consider that BMW quite publicly hired Chevy Volt project manager, Frank Weber in early 2011 to work on development of BMW’s electric cars.

Chevy Volt is receiving rave reviews and awards worldwide including 2012 European Car of the Year, 2011 North American Car of the Year, Motor Trend Car of the Year and Automobile Magazine Car of the Year to name a few. Add to this Consumer Reports survey finds Volt owners are the most satisfied of all new car owners in 2012 and they also rank the car as GM’s most reliable offering. And finally, one automotive media outlet identifies the Chevy Volt as “The single most important American car of the past 25 years”.

I believe the Volt’s concept for an alternatively powered vehicle is inspired and other manufacturers will see that and follow. And Chevrolet, well they have bit of a head start, sort of like Apple did with their iPhone…

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