The Chevy Volt's #1 Fanboy

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Lyle Dennis and Bob Lutz at GM's Volt Nation event. src="http://www.hybridcars.com/files/volt-nation-lutz-300.jpg" />

Lyle Dennis with Bob Lutz, General Motors product chief, at “Volt Nation.” GM is promoting the Chevrolet Volt by giving voice to its fans.

Rob Peterson, who has run the Volt PR effort from the start, confirms that Dennis is an unlikely but very effective advocate for the Volt. “Who would have thought,” he asked rhetorically, “that he could get 33,000 interested people” to sign GM-Volt’s register of potential Volt buyers? But Peterson is a big fan of social media, and pushed hard for bloggers and other influencers to be treated as well as—in some cases perhaps better than—the usual press outlets.

Of course, GM’s digital efforts suit its marketing goals: Increase brand awareness, encourage supporters to interact and promote the Volt on their own, and associate the Volt with social media venues reflecting a green agenda. It wasn’t the first digital effort; GM launched the Fastlane blog way back in January 2005. And earlier this year, it kicked off the GM-next site. GM’s marketers say they’re pleased with the results, and social-media analysts have said good things about GM’s efforts as well.

For Dennis, the momentum has built steadily. Today, he claims his site logs 1 million pageviews a month from 250,000 unique users. When you google “Chevy Volt,” his site is the second listed—right behind Chevrolet’s own site.

As a doctor and scientist, Dennis asks incisive questions that get to the heart of the matter—which he feels has brought him success, despite (or perhaps because of) not being trained as a journalist. As he points out, he didn’t know what he wasn’t supposed to ask—so he asked. And he’s not troubled by charges that he’s biased; “I consider myself biased, and that’s OK. I want the Volt to succeed!”

There’s a risk to such uncritical support, of course. Some bloggers—and their commenters—painted the Volt as an example of GM “greenwashing,” no more than an effort to hoodwink the public. If GM fails to deliver on its promise of Volt production by November 2010, or the car doesn’t run well or fails to deliver the promised mileage, then Dennis and other supporters will look like deluded pawns in yet another GM failure.

In person, Dennis is the epitome of mild-mannered. Appearing in public next to the always-colorful Bob Lutz, he came across as an appealing mixture of fan and acolyte for the Volt. The event was “Volt Nation,” held this April at the New York Auto Show, where Volt fans from around the world were invited to pose questions to the development team and Lutz. Promoted on the GM-Volt site—with quiet but substantial support from GM—the event brought hundreds of fans from across the country to ask surprisingly detailed question of the bemused but informative team. It was, says Dennis, a high point of his entire effort.

With positions at two New Jersey hospitals, three children under 10, and a side hobby of running marathons—yes, amidst all of this, the man runs marathons—Dennis admits that keeping up with the dozens to hundreds of daily e-mails can be a burden.

But the best is yet to come. He eagerly awaits the unveiling of the production Volt at the LA Auto Show this November, and further details leading up to the launch in November 2010. He expects by then that his site will have “10 times the traffic.” And knowing GM, neurologist Lyle Dennis may just be there when the first Volt rolls off the line.


  • Bert

    Volt Volt Volt……. 20010, 2011….

    How about now??

    Just take a look at http://www.hybridtechnologies.com

    They are also an X Prize Car entrant

    or even their supercar at:
    http://xprizecars.com/2008/07/hybrid-technologies-supercar.php

  • Old Man Crowder

    Maybe GM is onto something. Take an (almost) average guy and make him an unofficial spokesperson.

    I think I’ll start a website for one of the Asian manufacturers. I’ve always wanted to fly to Japan or Korea.

  • Charles Hall

    It’s difficult from this article to tell what’s actually going on. What “surprisingly detailed” questions did he ask, and did he get answers? The rest of us have seen nothing but smoke and mirrors from GM. I can’t imagine what he has on his website. Maybe a picture of that car GM’s been showing off as a Volt, but with a different body style, battery technology and drivetrain than the production Volt.

    Yeah, right.

  • Shines

    I think the guys a genius. Create a fan web site for a car that doesn’t exist. Get the executives at GM to “hire” him for PR. I’m sure he’s made a fortune on his web site. Good for him.
    Now back to reality…
    So in November 2008 Chevy is going to unveil the “production” version of the Volt? The car won’t be available for another 2 years! How can it be the production version?!?
    I hope they are hoping (is this hope beyond hope;-P) to release the Volt before November 2010. If it is delayed any further Toyota Honda and Nissan will have the lions share of the market.

  • kenny perry

    Lyle Dennis runs the most accurate website on the planet. He has had to correct (usually by going to the source itself – GM) literally hundreds of errors that have proliferated across the many (amateur, incompetent) “green” websites, most seemingly run by high school children. It’s hilarious to read some of the crap that those websites spouted early on about the “fraud” or
    “vaporware” of anything GM was doing. I haven’t heard any more
    silly nonsense from these amateur enterprises lately. There is also a lot of envy – listen to some of the text in this article. Lyle has access to those building the first practical plug-in hybrid on a first name basis. No other websites have this kind of credibility – they mostly sit around guessing about the Volt’s development. If you have any questions about the Chevy Volt, don’t go anywhere by to Lyle’s site. In almost every case, if he doesn’t have the real answer to some rumor, he will have it before anyone else. The lies and ficitions published on a whole passel of green websites is a disgrace, even for the internet, the most unreliable souce of information on the planet : there are still green websites talking about “640 mile driving ranges” and “untested battery packs” and even really dumb claims about reducing the fuel storage to “reduce weight.” It’s such a pleasure to have a website that can be trusted to provide accurate information, such as Lyle’s site. He has always presented himself as someone hoping to help get the Volt into production – his is NOT a general hybrid or EV website and doesn’t pretend to be, a seemingly obvious fact that somehow has been missed by the author here. Most geen websites are anything but scientific in their approach – they tend to believe what they feel like believing, and have practically no credibility as a result. It’s easy to see why this country has so few scientists – this generation I would rate as the dumbest of all time. They believe such utter nonsense – gullible to a fault. And logic plays virtually no part in their arguments, which mostly involve calling people they disagree with crooks or liars. Now , THAT’S dumb, plus being an ad hominem. “Gee, what’s that?”

  • JH

    Nice to see Bryce got a trip to Detroit for his efforts …. hahahaha!

    “But the best is yet to come. He eagerly awaits the unveiling of the production Volt at the LA Auto Show this November, and further details leading up to the launch in November 2010. “

    As does the rest of the world who see the volt hybrid as nothing more than vapor ware….

    I would love it to come out and be the US answer to the Prius…. but I doubt it will even launch.

  • Samie

    Give the guy a break, some here may see him as a ‘tool’ but to me he is a very successful smart person, try being a doctor, scientist and owning a successful website .

    I think that if the Volt is vaporware, wouldn’t GM try to avoid too much PR? I just watched a ad for the Volt during the Olympics some see this as hype to nothing but I see otherwise.
    Also has anybody else noticed other car companies are trying to match or beat GM’s 2010 November date for a EV car. Creating excitement for the Volt just puts extra pressure on GM to get this done. I’m sure the PR department of GM doesn’t want to hear about a sequel to “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

  • Bryce

    aw…..JH, I am so moved that you remembered my name and would even consider me to be Mr. Lyle. Sadly I am not said individual, most certainly not a neurologist, but mereley a man named Bryce eking his way through college. Some day I suppose though.

    It is nice to see this website given credit to this guy. A pure and unpaid enthusiast who is concerned with our real world problems and sees a solutions……which he is thus enthused about. As usual though, the patrons of this website will bash the Volt, but I do ask, at the very least, don’t destroy poor Mr. Lyle. He really is the real deal and I hope you all visit his website…… gm-volt.com

    U probably won’t, but it is worth a try.

  • Bryce

    Kenny Perry!!!

    Generation Y to the rescue

    You are welcome.

  • Waltz

    Agree 100 percent Bryce. Though I must say how many here could actually be a neurologist?
    Even if the Volt does not met consumer demands or gas prices become a non issue, GM is developing great technology that could spill into other product lines like government cars, SUV’s, and light freight trucks (UPS trucks). Lets see if the political parties pick-up on EV’s, and give the early buyers a tax break.

  • Bryce

    O yea, didn’t you hear, Obama and McCain have pledged a tax reimbrsement of $7000. That is pretty substantial. Coupled with 35000, that puts it back in Prius territory. (subsequentally followed up with no gas/extreme fuel economy)

    The true extent of this tech is its easy portability to other vehicles. It is an all new drivetrain, not just a car. Imagine E-Rev trucks and work vehicles. Maybe in a few years replace the li-ion with an EEstor ultracapacitor and you could have one amazing vehicle that could go a hundred or 2 hundred miles on a 5 minute charge and at the very worst, have to fill up at a gas station for the previously said extreme fuel economy. All while not having to change our energy infrastructure at all. Sounds realistic to me. GO GM and Go Volt!

  • Allen Schiano

    The post here about Lyle are some of the lamest I’m seen in a while on the ‘Net. And I’ve been on various shades of it since it started.

    I’ve been following Lyle’s site since it started. He has asked a whole set of very important technical questions to GM people and battery experts. The people on the site are also very knowledgable and I’ve heard many good technical discussions on all technical aspects of this car and others. And while I’m not a automotive engineer I do have a little thing called a Ph.D. in physics. So I think I can tell fluff from real technical issues.

    I’m also somewhat surprised that this site and obviously some of the people here are really against GM actually doing this. Sure it might not happen. But I haven’t heard much from Toyota on plug-in hybrid technology or advanced battery technology either EXCEPT to say that GM ius blowing smoke. I had a feeling this site was HELPED by Toyota and maybe Ford but the bias I see here is kind of disgusting.

    If you’ve followed the Volt site and read across the automotive journals and magazines it’s quite easy to see that GM NEEDS to make this work for it’s survival. If they don’t build this to specs they’re toast. I think under that kind of constraint they have a very high chance of succeeding. Desperation tends to focus the mind.

    Toyota on the other hand – and others – don’t need this kind of thing to work. They can sell Accords/Prii/Civics til hell freezes over and still be rich. They’ve pooh-pooh plug-in hybris, Li-ion batteries, 40 mile electric cruising ranges, over and over.

    So go over there and visit the GM-volt site before you start throwing ignorant rocks around.

  • Bryce

    They were already throwing rocks and they most assuredly will continue to do so. I try to put some reason in their heads, but the people already think of me as some biased GM lover that they just ignore I assume. If you look above, one of the guys figured I was Lyle. Flattering to be sure, but certainly not me. : )

  • Bryce

    Thx Allan Schiano

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Allen,
    I would guess from your apparent opinions that GM didn’t take a great, revolutionary, efficient, clean, fast, fun, … car away from you and crush it. It was the same bumbling duo of Lutz and Wagoner that:
    - Told the world that I didn’t want the car.
    - They are on record complaining that they tried to sell them but nobody wanted them.
    - They are on record saying that they were only able to lease about 1000 of them.
    The truth is actually:
    - I loved the car.
    - they never sold a single one but only allowed a few people in CA that met a whole laundry list of requirements to lease them.
    - they only built about 1000 of them and leased every one they made available for lease.
    Its only natural that people will be skeptical of GM – they’ve earned it.
    I would, personally, forgive GM if they actually do make and sell the Volt but it is way too early to see what they will actually do. In the mean time, we can only hope.

  • Waltz

    Bryce, I did hear of the $7,000 rebate but what I was getting at was if they would actually do it. Not sure, all the talk about government spending, not raising taxes, protecting petroleum interests, ect…… Sorry about that I just hope its not a bunch of rhetoric.

    Also many may hate me for this but I don’t agree with continuing federal tax rebates for Pruis (non-plugin) and other standard hybrids. I only think a tax rebate program should be for Plug-ins Long Range Hybrids (Volt),& EV’s. Nice to see if any car company could produce affordable Hybrids that lower income people could afford. (Just a thought that nobody ever mentions)

    Why do people complain about GM- Volt? I know GM has not had a good track record with EV1 and it dosen’t help that most people beleive the Pruis is the end all of all hybrids, (w/c I’m glad to see there will be more competion against the Pruis soon)

    Does it really matter who produces the first EV’s for the U.S in mass quantities? Lets look at the big picture please!

  • PW

    With GM, seeing is believing. As the article says supporters like Lyle Dennis will look like deluded pawns in yet another GM failure. Until GM actually produces the Volt, it’s all talk. Besides regular people won’t be able to afford it, but GM doesn’t care.

  • Anonymous

    Yes 30-40K range is out for me but overtime competition will drive the price down. What will be interesting to see is who buys the Volt? Will it be a status car for rich environmentalists?, how about some baby boomer’s, or those who will associate luxury with not going to the pump that often. Or maybe upper middle class families Don’t know I good question that would make for an excellent article. For the rest of us lets see in 7 years if we can afford a EV or Long range hybrid.

    For those who think GM is dead if this car doesn’t come out, think again. Don’t go that far. GM has a strong overseas market share and they are working with global partners to engineer new products for North America. Don’t believe all the hype.

  • Lans

    What worries me about the Volt is if its used as a floor room model/marking tool. Remember the hype for the Chevy HRS hope I got the name right. Anyways they used that thing as a marketing tool to get people interested in Chevy products. And what I have seen just a few of those things on the road since it came out.
    I agree with the last few posts who will buy this car remains to be seen.

  • Bryce

    THose of us folks on the 34k waiting list. We will buy it. : ) I would rather put my money here stateside than in the hands of a foreign oil baron. (Canadian oil barons might be ok though….lol)

    O an waltz, I wasn’t trying to be critical at all, just saying that such a rebate has already been talked about, and given all the hype energy agendas are getting from both sides of the aisle, it seems likely that we will get some sort of substantial assisstance in the department of electrical propulsion. If not, the private sector seems to already be on it. Lockheed-Martin is investing in EEstor and has been for some time. The same programs that brought us microwaves, cell phones, and the internet will bring us the next leap forward in automotive transportation. : ) Sounds fitting to me.

  • Mike Wisker

    I wonder if the new Volt can be used as a whole-house battery backup supply for use during power outages, etc.?

  • Allen Schiano

    Yep, they really screwed up on the PR for the EV-1. But they didn’t need that car either to make any money. They did it to appease California and other states that wanted some electric vehicles as ‘halo’ cars. I knew someone else who had one and he liked it as well.

    As for GM surviving on overseas sales, take a look at their current financials. It’s been estimated in several trade journals and sites that GM has about 2 years of cash left at their current rate of ‘decline’. That includes overseas sales. So you can do the math and see that the Volt is their car to show inventors and customers that they can compete in a high-efficiency world.

    Lastly, the biggest hurdle of making this car is probably already past. Both the two major battery builders have delivered working batteries to specs. If you follow Lyle’s site you can see that in the tone and content of the interviews he has had. They’re nit fluff answers but the kinds of things you hear from scientists and engineers, not marketeers.

    SO the only real issue I see is what will the price be? At $40,000 you’ll get richer folks looking for more exotic and technologically impressive cars. At $30,000 they’ll see more of these than Priis. That’s why any financial tax credit from Uncle Sam may be so crucial. AT the same time, getting 100Ks of these things on the road is what the country really needs NOW.

  • Bryce

    Volt production photos released!

  • JH

    “I’m also somewhat surprised that this site and obviously some of the people here are really against GM actually doing this.”

    ** Re-read a lot of the comments – it’s not that the world at large doubts that GM can do it – they doubt that they will.

    A lot of my frustration and lack of trust comes due to GM itself. What happened to the EV-1? Why aren’t they cranking them out now? The VOLT was originally billed as an all electric vehicle then for a brief moment as a fuel cell vehicle and now it is a gas electric hybrid….. It was going to get hundreds of miles per gallon – but now its revised downwards. So I am going to remain skeptical until it happens!

    So yes it is vaporware until they actually produce a showroom full of them!

    Bryce is our leading GM apologist – I generally poke fun at him for being a GM employee paid to surf these sites.

    I found this site when looking for a Hybrid – specifically the ford SUV hybrids…. ended up with a CAMRY Hybrid because I could not ever find an American made hybrid (as of today still waiting for calls from the local ford dealers telling me to come test drive the hybrid SUV).

    So yes – a lot of folks on this site are skeptical…. and I really don’t blame them. GM Had the opportunity to be well ahead of this curve and a leader in the American market…. instead they crushed their EV-1 and mass produced over-sized under-performing SUV’s and trucks.

    Call us all a bunch of doubting thomases but until I can walk into the local Des Moines GM dealer and test drive a volt I will not believe in it!

  • JH

    Hey on the volt homepage there are two pictures – both of which look exactly like the concept car from the recent car shows…. where are the rest??

    LINK: http://gm-volt.com/2008/08/14/breaking-gm-releases-new-production-volt-photos/

  • Bryce

    The EV-1 was smashed……and so were the electric Rav-4s…….warranty requirements made it a ridiculous endeavor at that low of numbers. You would be hand making all of the parts or running a factory tooled for these things once a year to keep up the maintanence stuff going.

    I wish they payed me though……would make tuition payments easier. : )

    But Honda would have to pay me too, cuz I am usually singing their praises as well. I rather enjoy their vehicles currently. Edmunds finds the best mid size sedans to be Accord, Malibu, and THEN Camry. Personally, I think it is the lame dashboard attached to that Camry……it is the same one on my moms ’99 Suburban. : )

    Not very impressive in 2008