There was a time when sleek, powerful sports cars turned heads. From the Corvette to the Viper to the M3. Nowadays, however, it’s electric cars that get people turning their heads.
With this in mind, more automakers are talking about their electric cars than their sports cars in hopes of building some goodwill towards their brand.
WSJ: GM’s Vice Chairman for Product Development Bob Lutz is an emblem of this change. Mr. Lutz championed the Viper — and horsepower in general — during his years at Chrysler, and used to dismiss hybrid cars as expensive money losers that didn’t return enough in fuel-cost savings to consumers to cover the additional price of the electric power system.
Then Mr. Lutz and his colleagues saw that Toyota was getting an enormous reputation boost out of its high-mileage Prius hybrid that transcended practical considerations such as profit per vehicle or out-of-pocket costs to the buyer. In other words, the Prius is a halo car — different from the Viper but not so different in intent or impact. Now, Mr. Lutz is a driving force behind the development of the Chevrolet Volt at GM, an electric car with a small gasoline engine for backup power.
And just like the much ballyhooed Viper, the Volt isn’t expected to be a best seller. It’s just supposed to get people on the lots.
GM probably won’t build many Chevy Volts, at least at first. At an estimated $40,000 a piece, Volts will be relatively high priced compared to other Chevrolets. Volts may well appeal to people with the money to consider a Corvette, but whose world view rejects a Corvette as an artifact of the past. (In many ways, the Z06 is a marvel of the internal combustion world — with a 505-horsepower, 7-liter V-8 that gets 24 miles to the gallon on the highway.)
Halo cars are designed to distract from the mass of vehicles on dealer lots that are safe, well-designed and relatively indistinguishable. But safe, well-designed, practical vehicles are what most people buy.