Remember the post about an hour ago about how a Reuters'-commisioned analyst claimed that General Motors was losing up to $49,000 per Chevrolet Volt? Well, a former GM exec wants everybody to know that that claim is not exactly what we call the truth. As Bob Lutz points out (and what I should have noticed in the first place, my apologies) is that this analyst is basically determining these costs by using the overall investment costs and dividing the difference by the number of Volts sold thus far. Lutz gives a quick breakdown of how the actual number crunching should be done and basically explains that the Volt isn't causing anywhere near those types of losses:
"Measured are material cost and labor, and these are deducted from the selling price. The positive difference is called “gross margin.” Then, one allocates per-unit “fixed cost” (advertising, general overhead, etc.) plus per-unit depreciation and amortization of the initial investment, based on the TOTAL NUMBER TO BE PRODUCED OVER THE LIFETIME of the product. If the margin, after all deductions, is still positive, then we call it a “fully accounted profit,” and the car is a winner.
The Volt “variable cost” (labor and materials, without revealing any confidential GM information), looks very roughly like this: A Li-Ion battery today runs about $350 per KWh. The Volt’s is 16KWh, so that’s roughly $6000. Add $4,000 for the battery pack structure, the cooling, the high-voltage wiring, the motor and the power electronics. So, that’s the electric portion. Add about 20 hours of assembly labor which we’ll round to a very generous $1000. The dealer net price is, say, $37,000. We now have $26,000 left for the rest of the car, which, cost-wise, is about equal to a Chevy “Cruze” which sells for around $22,000 retail! (And the Volt has no costly conventional transmission.) Thus, the “Volt”, by my estimate, is either close to “variable break-even” or may be on the cusp of a positive gross margin. Deduct the per-unit allocation for all fixed cost, depreciation and amortization and it is, surely, still “under water”….but not by much, and less and less so as the volume builds and other, higher-margin GM cars, like the Cadillac ELR, piggy-back off of the Volt’s initial investment."