Driving Electric with General Motors’ Dave Barthmuss

March 17, 2015

OHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. We’re here at the Global Green pre-Oscar party. It’s their 12th annual pre-Oscar party, 20th anniversary for Global Green. We’re here with Dave Barthmuss. He’s the Group Manager of Communications of General Motors, GM, the iconic brand that we all know and love around the world. Welcome to Green is Good, Dave. DAVE BARTHMUSS: Thanks very much, and welcome to the Volt lair here, with the new 2016 Volt. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We are in the Volt lair, and the Volt is right behind us here. But before we get talking about the Volt, talk a little bit about Dave Barthmuss. Talk a little bit about your history, Dave, how you got to this position, and your own interest and excitement around environmental and green topics. DAVE BARTHMUSS: It’s really been a long, strange trip. I’ve been with GM for about 20 years. I’ve spent time in Atlanta and Chicago. My job before coming to California was supporting the Chief Environmental Officer, so I learned a lot of things about doing things the right way, doing things the green way. We went to Sweden to get the World Water Prize during World Water Week. I went to the World Sustainability Summit in Johannesburg, so really learned a lot about what being green and doing the right thing from a sustainability standpoint really means. Last year, I took the plunge into solar. My wife owns a Volt, and what we do is we power that baby up with the sun, and we do everything that we can to be as independent as possible. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You’re based here in California. DAVE BARTHMUSS: I am. One of my first assignments in California was to help explain why we ended production and marketing of the EV1 when they first moved me out here, so that was a tough job. Nobody is happier about having this 2016 Volt here behind me than I am today. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is known to also be a city of cars. Let’s talk a little bit about why it’s so important for you to be involved with Global Green and messaging this beautiful 2016 Volt at this unbelievable event with all these celebrities and other people here tonight. DAVE BARTHMUSS: When you think about the environment, when you think about green, when you think about excitement in Los Angeles, it’s Academy Awards, it’s Global Green, it’s sustainability, and it’s electric cars. So combining all of those things together in one place is the perfect place for us to be. It started here six years ago with a prototype Chevrolet Volt. Every year we’ve had some different sort of plug-in story. We had our Cadillac ELR here last year. We brought the Spark EV out before that. Here we are with number four in our plug-in lineup for Chevrolet and Cadillac, the 2016 Chevy Volt. It’s the perfect place for us to be because if we want to really make it in the automotive industry, California is the place to do it. It’s the nation’s largest car market. It’s a trendsetter. What happens here usually travels east, so if you can’t get it right in California, it probably isn’t going to work. That’s really the lesson that we have learned going all the way back to the mid-90s with the EV1 and the importance of having a car that is great looking, performs well, and is very efficient. That’s what the Volt is all about. JOHN SHEGERIAN: This is just a beautiful car. Can you share with our viewers and listeners around the world all the great particulars on why this electric car is a car that everyone can enjoy driving in? DAVE BARTHMUSS: You start off by driving electrically. There isn’t anything better than driving an electric car because of the instant torque. You step on that accelerator, it’s in torque, you throw your head back, and you are gone. People don’t realize that about an electric car. They think it’s got to be this little small golf cart, but nothing could be further from the truth. What the Volt does is combine that great battery technology with a range extender. If you have a 50-mile daily commute, you could all be on battery and not have to visit a gas station. You can plug this into a household outlet in your garage, charge overnight, or if you have a 240-volt charger, you could charge even less than that. This completely doesn’t have any range anxiety with it, so you don’t have to worry about going from point A to point B running out of juice because that range extender kicks in when the battery runs out. It runs a flywheel, creates more electricity and you go for hundreds of miles. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So no range anxiety. That was the problem years ago with the beginning of electric cars, but this has now overcome that. DAVE BARTHMUSS: It really has. When I drove my EV1, I would go maybe 40-50 miles because I didn’t want to get stranded. But this has that backup generator. It basically creates electricity onboard. It uses gasoline, but it uses it to create electricity. We go 10,000 miles a year on our Volt. My wife has had it for a year-and-a-half. We haven’t cracked our third tank of gas yet. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Three tanks of gas in 10,000 miles. That’s just incredible. Is this 2016 model already available to our viewers and listeners yet? When will it become available? DAVE BARTHMUSS: It will be available later this summer at Chevy showrooms, so stay tuned. There will be plenty available for sure. JOHN SHEGERIAN: GM has been a frequent guest on Green is Good. GM is focused so much on being environmentally on the right side of things and also doing things the right way, not only just in the cars you’ve built, but in the factories that you manufacture these cars in, how your DNA and culture is green. Can you share a little bit more about all the green things going on at GM right now? Just give our listeners just a little taste. DAVE BARTHMUSS: You can’t just build a car and not worry about how you build it, so we really have focused on our manufacturing facilities to make sure that they use less energy, they put out zero waste. We have dozens of manufacturing facilities that are zero-waste landfill facilities. When you take a trashcan out to your curb tomorrow, you’ve already put out more trash than some of our plants do in an entire year. It’s a very long story, going all the way back to the sixties. It makes good business sense. If you reduce energy use, if you reduce waste, that’s more money into your bottom line. Being green is not just about being a good corporate citizen; it really helps the bottom line from a profitability standpoint. In today’s competitive world, you have to watch every dollar, every dime, and saving on those energy costs is very, very important for us. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Dave, the fallacy that existed 7-8 years ago, that being green was more expensive than not, you’re really saying at GM, you guys have made it not only part of your culture and your DNA, but you’ve proven again that being green can actually save money and make the company more money. DAVE BARTHMUSS: That’s exactly right. We wouldn’t be doing these things if it didn’t help our bottom line. We went through a reorganization a couple of years ago. We can’t afford to do that again. It’s just common sense. If you are using less energy to produce a product, you’re going to make more profit on that product. That’s the bottom line for us. It combines being a good corporate citizen with also improving the bottom line. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Tell me a little bit about tonight. Tonight is the 20th anniversary of Global Green, 12th pre-Oscar party. You’ve got this gorgeous car that’s coming out, this 2016 Volt that’s coming out at the end of the summer. Why tonight are you the lead sponsor and is this so important to your ongoing involvement with Global Green? What does this mean for the future of GM? DAVE BARTHMUSS: Global Green really sets the standard within Hollywood when it comes to thinking about environmental issues. It used to be that stars were arriving at these Oscar parties in vehicles other than ours. It’s great now that we have assumed the place on the green carpet, and you see celebrities arriving at places like this in their Chevy Volt, or like last year in a Cadillac ELR or a Spark EV. We’ve also announced the fact that we’re going to build a new all-electric vehicle based on the Chevy Bolt concept. It will be priced at about $30,000 and have at least a 200-mile range. That could be the vehicle we’re going to be showing off at the next Global Green pre-Oscar party. I don’t know. But it’s very important for us to have a place here, to have a role here, be seen as good partners, because Global Green’s advocacy for electric vehicle technology has really helped us become the number one selling plug-in in the country and certainly here in California. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s good business to be here and it’s great messaging to do this together in tandem. You foresee that staying for future events just like you’ve done previous events with Global Green. DAVE BARTHMUSS: As long as we have cars with plugs in them or run on things other than gasoline or we’re doing something to help improve communities or to clean emissions in the air, Global Green is the right partner with us to be associated with, for sure. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Dave, I’ll give you the last word. Again, thank you for being such a great loyal sponsor, but the last word is yours. DAVE BARTHMUSS: The only word I would have is I would encourage folks to go out to a Chevrolet dealership, take a test drive in a Chevy Volt. If that’s not the car for you, maybe that Spark EV is the car for you. If that’s not the car for you, maybe a Chevy Cruze is the car for you. If you want a Cadillac car that does the same thing, we’ve got an ELR. Stay tuned. We’ve got four vehicles with plugs in them. We’ve got technologies that will meet every kind of need. We’re very, very happy to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Dave Barthmuss, thank you for being with us. GM, again, on Green is Good Radio. If you want any type of electric vehicle, as Dave said, they’ve got something for you. This gorgeous 2016 is coming soon to a Chevy dealership near you later this summer.