GM: Not Making Hybrid a 'Mistake'

Toyota beat General Motors to the punch with the Prius, GM's Bob Lutz says.

ByABC News
March 19, 2008, 9:11 PM

March 20, 2008 — -- Not making a hybrid car like the Prius was a "mistake," outspoken General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz told a room of Chevy Volt "fan boys" at the New York Auto Show this week.

"We had the technology to come out with a hybrid at the same time as Toyota," Lutz said Tuesday. "In hindsight, it was a mistake. ... We made the mistake and we won't make it again."

"I think the whole company has learned when you step out and do bold things, you win and when you're cautious and let other people do the bold things, you lose," he continued.

Lutz was at the auto show for an unprecedented town hall type, question-and-answer session from the "Volt Nation," a group of fans of the Volt, GM's electric concept car. They have rallied around a blog created by a New York neurologist who is unaffiliated with the company.

Lyle Dennis, a neurologist at New Jersey's Hackensack Medical Center and Englewood Hospital, started the blog when the concept car debuted in January 2007.

The Chevy Volt runs on a combination of a lithium ion battery and gas. The battery can be used for up to 40 miles at a time.

"I was personally struck by the importance and the potential of the car and I wanted to do something as a rallying point," Dennis said. "It was really more of an experiment and I didn't know if I could make a difference with it, so I've been surprised with what's happened this year."

Dennis came to the attention of GM executives just a few short months after he started his blog.

"We first met Lyle in April of last year when his Web site kept popping up with news on the Chevy Volt," said Rob Peterson, a spokesman for GM. "It blossomed into a relationship."

According to Peterson, as that relationship developed, Dennis brought up the idea of Volt engineers having a town hall meeting with the readership of his blog.

GM acquiesced, letting Dennis use its New York Auto Show floor space. Dennis called the meeting "Volt Nation."

Within 24 hours of announcing the meeting on his blog, Dennis saw more than 250 people sign up to attend.