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GM CEO Dan Akerson: On Chevy Volt Future and Climate Change

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Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors spoke with Fresh Dialogues March 7 in San Francisco about the five-week suspension of Chevy Volt production; the future of what he described as GM's "statement car" and his surprisingly candid views on climate change.

Arguing that GM matches production to inventory, he said, "It's foolhardy to produce beyond demand." As of February 2012, Volt inventory was 6,300 units, enough to last at least five months at current sales volumes. Last month 1,023 Volts were sold, up from 603 units in January, making the 2012 goal of 45,000 sales appear a huge stretch. Akerson complained about the media's laser focus on the Chevy Volt. Despite it being less than half of one percent of GM's annual car production, it gets all the attention. He noted that no one batted an eye when production of the Chevy Cruz (GM's top-selling car) was halted for two weeks.

So what's the future of the Volt? A spring relaunch will feature new generation Volts, with improved emissions levels, which now qualify for HOV lane stickers in California -- a key factor, since one in four Volts are sold in the Golden State. He believes that this will help stimulate demand and quoted a recent study that found the average commuter saves 36 minutes a day by using carpools. Time is money. But is it worth $40,000? He confirmed that small shipments of the new Volt had already been made and the car will be available soon in California showrooms.

Akerson also described the new ad campaign which will be, in his words "more interesting."

And his definition of "more interesting"?

It will feature "the facts." Facts like the car's safety rating, a pivotal factor as it recovers from its burning reputation last year. Facts like testimonials from Volt drivers. "Real people (like Jay Leno) not actors," Akerson hastened to add.

And the facts about global warming? Fresh Dialogues had to ask.

"We're doing the right thing for the company at the right time. We will leave it up to the consumer how they interpret that." Akerson said.

But his position on climate change is clear. During a Commonwealth Club interview, he confessed that he "believes" in global warming, adding, "Several GM executives say 'you don't say that in public.' Well, this may surprise you but my underwear doesn't have GM stamped on it... I am an individual and I do have my own convictions."

Good to know.

Here's the amusing video segment from the Commonwealth Club:

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