Advertisement

Audi USA President Explains Chevy Volt 'Idiots' Comment

Follow Nelson

Audi USA CEO Johan de Nysschen

Audi USA CEO Johan de Nysschen

It's a pretty rare thing to hear the president of a major corporation speak their mind in public. But Audi of America's Johan de Nysschen did just that recently, and got slammed to the mat on the basis of a few choice words - namely, using the term "idiots" to describe Chevrolet Volt buyers.

But that's not the whole story - in fact, the explanation given today of that comment and de Nysschen's views on electric cars was contained, in kernel form, in the original story that led to the explosion on the web. But the typically low-depth, high-speed nature of Internet sensationalism saw little more than a parroting of the "idiot" term around the web - something Motor Authority carefully steered clear of.

The explanation and rebuttal that de Nysschen released today, however, lends itself more readily to rational discourse, and so we'll delve into his assertions as they are offered.

First, de Nysschen offers a clarification of his viewpoint on a quick transition to electric vehicles in general. The problem, in his view, is that mass electrification of the automobile fleet could have secondary and tertiary effects on the infrastructure and economy. While there is a lot of debate on the matter amongst scientists, it is at least a valid concern, though it applies equally to all plug-in hybrids and electrics, not just the Chevy Volt. He is, however, fully behind electrics, as the upcoming R8 ePerformance electric vehicle concept is expected to prove.

Second is the energy shift de Nysschen sees EVs causing, moving from gasoline to coal-fired powerplants, effectively offloading emissions to a different source, but not eliminating or even necessarily reducing them in a total "well-to-wheel" sense. Again, that relies to a degree on his former point, but even if the grid can sustain the electrical load, there will have to be an increase in electricity generation, and that will most likely come in the form of more burnt coal.

Third, de Nysschen addresses the Volt head-on, saying that it is simply not economically feasible at present. The features, size and performance offered are those of a gasoline powered car that costs roughly half as much, according to de Nysschen, so those that pay that premium aren't being economically sensible. Use of taxpayer-funded subsidies, which are already being heavily touted as a way to make the Volt affordable, are proof that the technology isn't currently sustainable in a pure market sense. Further, no amount of fuel savings will recoup the up-front costs.

That's a point we've explained countless times in the past, and applies equally to hybrids and even, in some cases, diesels. But, it also doesn't take into account the fact that many people buy such cars on an ideological basis - to help minimize their environmental impact, to make a statement, or to help support the technology and the companies that produce it in the hopes that it will lead to more and better solutions in the future. Those are perfectly valid reasons to buy such a car, but it's not the smart business choice, for either carmaker or car buyer.

Fourth, he argues that there are better alternatives in the present and near future, including diesel and efficiency-maximizing gasoline engines. He also recognizes that EVs will be effective solutions in the more distant future, once costs of the technology have come down and the infrastructure to support them has grown.

That goes back to his first point, and is a matter of some contention, but is nonetheless a reasonable outlook for the CEO of a car company that's tasked with making decisions to direct his company not just to a greener future, but a profitable present.


Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (21)
  1. Great article.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  2. First, I would rather our cars be powered by power plants in the US rather than powered by oil that comes from hostile countries.
    Second, he has issues with the cost of the Volt, yet my Audi TT roadster quattro cost me $42,000 when I bought it new and it averages 25mpg. So the Volt seems like a fine price seeing it is around that price yet won't cost me any in gas the majority of the time. So yeah, a $40,000 Audi may be faster than a $40,000 Volt, but that's not why I'm buying a Volt. I am getting a Volt because it beats Audi's butt on fuel economy. (and I've read it will be fun to drive as well)
    So yes, it will be a wise financial choice. Either way I'm spending $40,000 for my next car. BMW, Lexus, M-B, Audi, etc have cars at that price, but all will cost me more in the long run for the fuel and I will not be helping our dependence on foreign oil if I spend that kind of money and don't get a EREV.
    I won't be buying another Audi.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  3. That's a good point - the Volt won't necessarily be cross-shopped against cars that are of similar features, but against luxury cars, since the technology itself is a sort of luxury.
    So if you're willing to forego the niceties for a lower fuel bill, it certainly makes sense for you. But at that point, why did you buy an Audi this time instead of a Toyota Prius? The same argument applies there as well...
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  4. At least the Volt gets the product ball rolling. All products start out higher in price then as everyone else jumps on board and new technologies are developed, prices come into line. You had to have the giant and expensive Laser Disc to get to DVD then Blue Ray...etc... Now that the ball is rolling it will create competition in a new marketplace which should start to advance the technology rather rapidly. We are already starting to see signs of this.
    I applaud GM and the Volt and the early adopters that will buy them.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  5. I bought my Audi TT back in 2001. I wasn't interested in a Prius back then, but I am a fan of the new Prius with 50mpg. Very nice, but I'll still wait for the Volt seeing I keep my cars for awhile and want the cutting edge this time in the mpg department. I think it is great that Toyota and Nissan are also working on EVs and think the future is bright for such cars.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  6. Well written article. A CEO willing speak frankly is always refreshing and it takes just this kind of action to let people that supposedly green to be little more educated about their decisions, rather than thinking jumping into another technology has only benefits and no consequences that could potentially offset its initial purpose: to be greener. Ultimately, I see a high MPH clean diesel to be a real alternative to current gas power cars in current market and environmental situation, the fact that NY state still does not have diesel car for sale baffles me.
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  7. MPG rather....
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  8. With this promising health reform combined with a balancing function for price inflation in operation, Chevy Volt, too, is earning competitive edge in price along the way, together with Nissan Leaf.
    I for one believe that the U.S. will lead the way in an EV field as the meaningful investing in a battery tech was made.
    Even excellent hybrid cars and modern diesels are not comparable to EVs in light of fuel economy as the current fuel price went beyond the level of these autos and they failed to overcome this great recession, I guess.
    Even when electricity is produced by coal, an electric vehicle will indirectly release less carbon than a liquid fueled vehicle. One source suggests 60% less: http://green.autoblog.com/2009/07/24/study-even-with-electricity-from-coal-electric-vehilces-beat-g/

    Overall, It is solidly believed that Nissan Leaf and GM Volt are saving the world, and the other developers that come in a range of 200 to 300 miles between charges are on fast-tract toward mass-market, as well. No Need For Oil dependence And Heartbreaking Wars !
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  9. The missing caveat in this article is its failure of the author or Mr. de Nysschen to recognize the inability of capitalism to properly price externalities such as air pollution whether it causes disease, acid rain or global warming. If the “free market” properly reflected these costs, we wouldn’t need such inefficient socialistic compensating measures such as hybrid/EV rebates, clean energy subsidies or carbon cap and trade. It’s always cheaper to keep a dog when he poops in your neighbor’s yard.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  10. Thank god, people like me have been saying those things for years but nobody listens, maybe now some of the "Idiots" will understand since its coming from someone other than a socalled "Internet troll".
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  11. Ofcourse he's going to bash electrics. Audi are currently in the middle of a multi-million dollar ad campaign to promote clean diesel here in the U.S. Have you not seen the ad where they show barrales of oil rolling back to the oil tanker docked in the port?
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  12. All good points. But I think Alister is correct, the main impetus for his comments may be sour grapes, the Volt is garnering more media attention than his own company's diesel push...
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  13. Thanks Gus!
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  14. Just to do not miss the matter of the Chevy Volt. The reason why GM keeps the South Korean Unit on its hands is because the project of Volt came from South Koren Government Agreements signed with the local automakers.
    The technology is nos as efficient as the one developed by a few Chinese Automakers.
    I keep saying that the best choice would be the Hydrogen, which would delyver water to nature. The costs for produce such volume of electrical energy combined with the ambiental impacts will probably not turn so many countries into that energetic-program.
    Best regards,
    J.I.Hosang
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  15. JTPC: You are exactly right. Quoting you, "First, I would rather our cars be powered by power plants in the US rather than powered by oil that comes from hostile countries." That is a tremendous advantage over all the other hybrids and diesels: The Volt may use very little or often NO gasoline at all! Gasoline sold in the US is made from crude where 70% is imported. The Volt likely will use negligible gasoline, depending on the owner.
    Worried about the US electrical grid capacity? If Volts are charged at night, there is the capacity to charge literally millions of Volts right now on the existing grid with NO new power plants needed.
    Example: In CA we have 18 million vehicles and 33 million residents. PG&E has said that the CA electrical grid could nighttime charge 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 Volts with the existing grid. The energy would come from natural gas burning power plants that run 60% efficient, plus some hydro.
    I'd say the Audi exec got caught with his diesel obsession pants down. Jeez, don't diesels run on 70% imported oil???
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  16. MarvK's specs on Cal. electricity might be correct.
    but,do we beleive GM's figures without an independent test. Me, no.
    18 mil. gas powered cars divided by 2 mil EV's =
    10 %ish is that enough to offset anything
    We have to reduce our electric power plant emissions even without EV's. Nationwide.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  17. To jtps's comment on the price.
    I'm sure you paid $40K for your Audi out of your own pocket. $40K for the volt is after a federal subsidy. Who's money is the subsidy ?
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  18. As the details mentioned above of the Audi i can say that its not that much expensive so those that pay that premium aren't being economically sensible. Use of taxpayer-funded subsidies, which are already being heavily touted as a way to make the Volt affordable, are proof that the technology isn't currently sustainable in a pure market sense. Further, no amount of fuel savings will recoup the up-front costs. these all conditions matters also Racing engines
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  19. This is funny to read the president of a America's major corporation, Johan de Nysschen speak their mind in public and used a few choice words - namely, using the term "idiots" to describe Chevrolet Volt buyers.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  20. Did Government Motor claim something like 250 MPG on this soon to be POS? Is that EPA number? What's the basis?
    Agree with Audi pres that only IDIOT will fork over $42k for it and you can bet that bleeding heart liberals will line up for it than the demand collapses and Hussein will force US government agencies to buy it. Yep our tax $ at work all right.
    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/audi-president-calls-the-volt-a-car-for-idiots-2009-9#ixzz10WNzrYYr
     
    Post Reply
    -1
    Bad stuff?

  21. How about the resale value on Hybrids in general? These are not vehicles you want to own after the battery-pack is out of warranty(80-100k miles).
    So who do you think will take the hit on this come trade in time? It sure ain't going to be the dealer!
    Second item is ya stuck with having your vehicle serviced by the dealer.
    Another overlooked item is Joe's Garage is not going to want to service these white elephants. Dealers are out on a limb when sending their techs to school because they can very easily find a better paying shop or start their own once they get certified.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement

Take Us With You!

 

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you
Go!
Advertisement

Research New Cars

Go!


 
© 2014 MotorAuthority. All Rights Reserved. MotorAuthority is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.