DETROIT — Introduced by a hologram of Thomas Edison and preceded by a pair of acrobats, crusty auto veteran Bob Lutz took to the stage at the North American International Auto Show to promote Via Motors’ conversions of full-size GM trucks to plug-in hybrids for commercial customers.
The outspoken Lutz, retired from his post as GM Vice Chairman, now is a board member at Via. At GM he squired the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric into the market. The Via system is similar. When the batteries run low, and there’s no handy place to plug in the charger, a gas engine kicks in to keep the charge up.
Early customers include Verizon and Pacific Gas and Electric.
Three converted GM trucks were at the Via display, a pickup, a van and an SUV. All have a claimed electric-only range of 35 miles, enough for commercial applications where long-distance travel is rare.
Via anticipates that the extended-range pickup will be priced at $79,000 when it debuts this September — nearly three times the price of a base gasoline Silverado pickup.
Via forecasts a 300% improvement in fuel economy vs. the gasoline models on which the Via models are based.
Because of the high price, “We really don’t see big retail demand,” Lutz said. “The nice thing about fleets is that they’ll take ’em thousands at a time.”
According to Lutz, the trucks’ burly designs and utility also might help win over EV skeptics. “It could take the sort of ‘wimpmobile’ image away,” he said.
* By Keith Barry. For full story, please visit http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/01/14/bob-lutz-via-motors-electric-pickup/1834545/