Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dave Rand, executive director of global design for General Motors, talks about the "revolutionary" new vehicle that GM is announcing today - the PUMA.


Dave Rand

Comments [95]

Che from Soho

Failure yet again. If we say eco-friendly, they say hummer... no i feel like the world has said carbon foot-print and GM has said city... exactly who is this intended to help or how is this supposed to make GM competitive again... all i saw in that video was some silly toy for low carbon impact, wealthy city dwellers to tool around in on the weekends... if anything... GM has just given the few powerful yet conscious people a whole new way to become a new-aged couch potato!

Apr. 14 2009 02:11 PM

Took a look at this vehicle -- obviously built to fail. "We built the right thing and Americans just weren't interested."

In the old days, this would have worked (actually, did work.) These days, there's the Tata Nano.


Apr. 12 2009 12:17 PM

Stupid for the City.

Um, where do you plug it an electric vehicle anyway? Throw an extension cord out the window from your apartment?

Use a bike.

Apr. 10 2009 12:26 PM
Christine from Manhattan

This is the stupidest thing I have ever seen. No wonder GM is a failure. Urbanites don't need these types of vehicles, we have mass transit.

Apr. 08 2009 11:44 AM
Domenick from Manhattan

The newer 3-wheel scooter the NYPD use, the Intercepter II, is made by Hyundai a cop told me. They look like a good alternative already. Modify the design for two people, raise the rear deck for cargo and it's the ticket. It already has heat and I think a thermocouple compressor less air conditioner would work. If they reduce the crash requirements they could open up good designs based on the Quad ATV's the Nipponese already make a lot of. The 3 wheel Piaggio MP3 500cc Scooter, also comes in 400 and 250cc models is a pretty interesting option.

Apr. 08 2009 01:32 AM
Judy from Centerport, NY

I can't understand how GM could have sent Mr. Rand out to promote this "car." He could barely answer Brian's questions and every answer was in Corp-Speak -- lots of words designed to say nothing. The llast caller was right - GM deserves to fail.

Apr. 07 2009 05:22 PM
rh from NYC

The seguay failed to take off because most (healthy active) people recognized that it was not much more than a 'standing-up' version of a motorized wheel chair. Who would pay thousand of dollars for that?? The seguay finds use among the disabled and persons in jobs where they are on their feet all day (loading docks, police patrol on foot etc.). I never see these vehicles and that is because there was never any real niche for the seguay . I imagine this new version will find the same fate. A novelty for the very wealthy. That's about it. It seems ridiculous.

Apr. 07 2009 03:51 PM
Dick Cameron from Metro area

Many of the questions asked here were answered in the segment. The car shown is a bare bones prototype. A body design with safety devices and amenities are being worked out. The potential manufacture date is 2012.
Will these cars help solve transportation problems in a large city? Only with a shift in how we perceive motored transportation. Personally I don't think people can get behind being smaller. America is big car country and unfortunately it will probably stay that way.
So let's petition GM, the Government, and the other car makers to make alternative fueled cars that are just like the ones we drive now. Make them lighter, invent something new to make them run and be safe. And so.
OR let's work toward changing our minds.

Apr. 07 2009 03:01 PM
BluokR from Manhattan

I missed the comment about how it needs its own lane, as if that's likely to happen in NYC. Honestly, why are these people so poorly briefed on the realities of life here, before they show up with some half-baked concept that's supposed to be "perfect" for us and save us? Take the thing to DC or Phoenix or Tampa or Austin or some other empty city designed for the automobile.

Apr. 07 2009 02:05 PM
David in Brooklyn

Yesterday I walked by this vehicle and film crew a few blocks from my apartment, near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Several techies were kneeling on the asphalt, heads inside the back panel. What we see in the video's a prototype. New Yorkers will be buying Mini Coopers and folding bikes for years to come--as well as compacts & SUVs (to compete with the trucks & other SUVs already on the road).

Apr. 07 2009 01:36 PM
Marty from Queens, NY

Ok, so now America’s crippled auto industry comes up with a glorified motorized wheel chair…. How apropos …….. Just another sign of the intellectual bankruptcy which created Detroit’s crash and burn ….. Fire these managers without severance or retirement benefits. Seriously, offering the idea of providing urban transportation by “creating” (really buying someone else's creation) a $4000 light weight short range vehicle for 2 selfish people which needs dedicated travel lanes is so STUPID as to defy belief …. Those same parameters are filled by TROLLEYS or other urban rail systems (or even buses) which serve dozens of people and are the exact system Detroit so effectively destroyed 90 years ago ….. If all GM can come up with is buying someone else’s creation, how about purchasing or partnering with Tesla Motors and committing to light weight carbon fiber material over steel (and create manufacturing jobs and an exportable commodity) and next generation engines and fuel systems – clean diesel, small ultra efficient LNG, Li-Ion batteries, hybrids or even external combustion steam engines, and build non-urban cars for the future and the world? The ideas and systems already exist, all that is needed is the vision and willingness to invest ….. All these idiots can come up with is another useless, selfish, short sighted destructive toy to sell without taxing their limited intellectual and creative abilities …….. The PUMA is the best evidence in support of breaking up GM into 6 or 7 smaller companies who might stand a better chance of inventing and creating as opposed to serving up this POS.

Apr. 07 2009 12:47 PM
sandra eisemann from southport.CT

Sorry, meant Puma

Apr. 07 2009 12:45 PM
sandra eisemann from southport.CT

The car looks dsrling, but our electric bill for Ferbruary was $352.00. Wo9uld anyone wsnt to chsrgre the POuma too? Not I.

Apr. 07 2009 12:44 PM
michelle from brooklyn

What a disaster! It's a glorified wheelchair for 2. I don't see how this is going to make a real positive impact on city traffic. If anything, it's a safety hazard.
GM needs to study the success of the Smart Car. It's such a success in Europe. Why can't GM think more like car design company instead of a knock off artist?

Apr. 07 2009 12:33 PM
vicky from Manhattan

Where is the rear view mirror -- or any mirror? Where is the windshield wiper? Is there any ventilation for hot days, or heat for cold days.
It seems to me like a fancy hooded electric bike.
I know that this is just the beginning, and it's pretty exciting but there's a lot more work needed.

Apr. 07 2009 12:30 PM
Audrey from NJ

I don't think Brian was "snarky"; he probed the topic so that we learned some very interesting facts about the P.U.M.A. The GM spokesperson got a good dose of New York reaction--I hope he takes it to heart.

Apr. 07 2009 12:27 PM
Julian from NYC

How much of their time (not to mention our time and our bailout money) are they wasting on this outrageous nonsense? If this is what qualifies as visionary leadership at GM, then we ought to quit backing their determination to render themselves irrelevant and commit corporate hara-kiri. Whether they are serious (a separate lane for this???), or only expect us to take them seriously, we are fools to countenance this latest frivolous distraction. Off with their heads!

Apr. 07 2009 12:21 PM
Otto from NY

So you can't take it on the highway or the street.

Is this way for Segway to tap into GM's lobbying power to get state a local governments to allow them on bike paths? I'm not so sure anyone's gonna want to hear that.

What a stupid waste of time.

Apr. 07 2009 12:20 PM
ZLP from Brooklyn

The guest said he could envision it in BIKE LANES! Are you kidding?

First of all, it's wider than a bike lane, second of all, the Segway enthusiasts have been battling over bike lane access for years (and recently won the right to ride there, causing consternation to those who want to restrict motorized vehicles):

These multi-thousand-dollar science fair projects do not need to dynamically balance their way into cyclists. Bikes use no electricity, keep their riders in shape, and have flexible parking requirements. The fact that GM embraced Segway's dotcom-era albatross indicates that they deserve to fail.

Rather than build "PUMA lanes" all over NYC, why not implement a rental bike program like several other world cities?

Apr. 07 2009 12:20 PM
Paul Beeken from Westchester, NY

Too little too late. By the time this prototype has all the things it will need to make it street legal it will have no range. (too heavy, draws too much power, etc.) GM blew its opportunity with niche market vehicles when they canned the electric vehicle to take commuters to train stations. The tests were successful, they were reliable and solved the major problem of getting 100,000s who live a short drive from train stations. They shut it down for no apparent reason. My guess: the profit margins weren't high enough. This doesn't give me much confidence that GM can pull this off. BTW, How does this compare with a GEM (a chrysler product)?

Apr. 07 2009 12:18 PM
June from Westchester, NY

It's so sad, they really don't get it. The bikes can't even ride anywhere, how is this thing going to be able to function! This country needs to have completely different road systems, like Amsterdam, to handle this. Bikes, scooters, & Smartcars are here and still don't get used as much as in Europe. Such a waste.

Apr. 07 2009 12:17 PM
JoAnne from Montclair

I understand that this is a prototype and that the market version will be enclosed, but still, 30 miles? Meaning 15 miles there and back - not really feasible in suburban NJ. And where do you put anything? Can't grocery shop in it. I don't think it is a productive marketable effort. Too far toward the first Segway.

Europeans have many very small cars that we do not. I was hoping that this was the direction that GM was going.

Apr. 07 2009 12:16 PM
Jeff from NJ

Simply Ridiculous!

GM you do not instill us with any confidence that your company has the insight to survive and that are dollars are not being wasted!

Apr. 07 2009 12:16 PM
U from Brooklyn

If you need "public policy changes" for these, why not lobby for bike lanes instead? It's more cost-effective to regulate and fund bike lanes, public transportation, and expanding high-speed interstate rail. This makes no sense. GM is lost. The government should use its resources to develop new public transportation. What a waste of bailout.

Apr. 07 2009 12:14 PM
Iven from New Jersey

This vehicle has no place in NYC or for that matter, in any major city. Safety-wise it would never pass muster. Our cities must have electric vehicles but not this!

Apr. 07 2009 12:14 PM
Ron Bucalo from Westchester

Smoke and mirrors and desperation to make the public think they're doing something really's a bit of a joke...

Apr. 07 2009 12:11 PM
Adam Drupka from New Jersey

This is a show off, no use project. Personal Sagway has trouble for its cost to make it on the market and a "shared car" should do it?. He could not even answer how can you recharge that thing (meaning access to plug in). I have send once to GM R&D site question : to claim a name of being a leader in this industry do you have any plans to build ultimate future car? And I mean by that HYDROGEN-ELECTRIC vehicle so you can park anywhere and hydrogen can charge it , also H can give extra power to use it on long trips. GM deserves to go down if they do not understand that CAR is for ME, not ME for the CAR

Apr. 07 2009 12:10 PM
brian from brooklyn

PUMA is total non-starter.
Thoses three wheeled police scooters (Grumman-made?) would be perfect for city living - compact, fuel-efficient, room for groceries, etc.

Apr. 07 2009 12:08 PM
Tim from manhattan/brooklyn

Come on! Seriously? All GM can come up with to "revolutionize transportation" is a two wheel golf cart? I can think of at least five vehicles already in production that can do anything this thing can do. In fact, there's a 4 year-old in my neighborhood who drives a miniture electric Hummer - maybe GM should focus on producing those. I can't wait until GM fades away.

Apr. 07 2009 12:07 PM
Mark Dorfman from Manhattan

Your guest from GM says this vehicle is appropriate for urban areas because the speed of traffic in a congested city is about 35mph. He contradicts himself by saying the vehicle is too slow for traffic lanes so should use bike lanes. That is a bad and DANGEROUS idea! You don't want a motorized vehicle going anywhere near 35mph alongside bicycles and rollerbladers! And if we're going to make a new type of dedicated lane besides bike lanes in cities they should be for pedestrians not motorized vehicles. We don't need vehicles that only get around cities. We need better mass transit for that. We need more efficient cars that operate outside of cities.

Apr. 07 2009 12:06 PM
r. d. from inwood

I just saw the video. Looks scary. Still, you should be polite to your guests.

Apr. 07 2009 12:05 PM

The extent to which GM is out of touch with reality is mind-boggling. Given the company's situation just now, this thing is absurd. Does senior management even know that this guy is on the radio flogging this thing? It's maddening to think that taxpayer money might be propping up this nonsense.

Apr. 07 2009 12:04 PM
Bob from Brooklyn, NY

Let GM fail. There is NO way this vehicle could sell for anything less than $8-$10K! There is NO functionality here. Why not buy a true and tested subcompact that is safer, a bit larger to actually have utility (i.e. groceries), and has a dealer network to support.

GM is a joke and this is more of their failed marketing-centric strategy. They need a true PRODUCT STRATEGY and they need to stop trying to pull one over on consumers...

Let the whole company fail and stop wasting our MONEY.

Apr. 07 2009 12:02 PM
Lance from Manhattan

WNYC listeners rarely agree on anything.
But I think we are collectively giving this proposal a big thumbs down.

Apr. 07 2009 12:02 PM
Marissa from Manhattan, NY

I expect more for the federal bailout money - the 3-wheeled trucks that I saw in Italy all the time could get up to 72 miles per gallon, fit two people, and have room in the bed to carry groceries or construction supplies. This technology, while interesting and cool, is just idiotic when competing in a world market.

Apr. 07 2009 12:02 PM
BBW from Rye NY

Another inappropriate "new" idea.

Apr. 07 2009 12:01 PM
r. d. from inwood

Why does Brian sound so SNARKY about this. He was close to rude to his guest. Jeez. Give it a break.

Apr. 07 2009 12:01 PM
mary from brooklyn

this interview felt very fragile- the fragility of the endeavor, the ecosystem it attempts to address, an executive of a teetering empire...

Apr. 07 2009 12:01 PM
BBW from Rye NY

Another inappropriate "new" idea from GM.

Apr. 07 2009 12:01 PM
Chris from NYC

Absolutely agree with last caller. This is a foolish thing to be focussing on at this point is time

Apr. 07 2009 11:59 AM

They're sunk. No one is going to buy this thing. A few liberals with money, maybe. But this is an abosolute waste.

What GM does not seem to realize is that 40 years of lousy cars has damaged their reputation beyond repair. It would take another 40 years of top quality Honda like cars for them to come back.

Again, this concept car is going to finally put GM in the earth.

Apr. 07 2009 11:59 AM
Matthew from NYC


Apr. 07 2009 11:59 AM
Helen from Manhattan

At least GM's thinking along the lines of co-ordinating public policy with new products. If high-speed trains were more popular, or became more popular - then the long distance issue would be solved. Car-less society.

Apr. 07 2009 11:59 AM
anonymous from manhattan

is this a continuation of the april fool's joke?

Apr. 07 2009 11:59 AM
Lars from 10010

Golf cart? Electric bicycle?

And they think this could go in the bicycle lane? How about the sidewalk?

Apr. 07 2009 11:58 AM
Frank Grassi from Central New Jersey

Glad to see GM making changes for the world market. This vehicle is godd for a few US cities, yet would fit in well in so many foreign cities where a scooter is the major form of transportation. Right cost and fuel consumption for a world vehicle.

Apr. 07 2009 11:58 AM
alexander from NJ


Love it! Very forward-thinking! If America won't take it, Europe will!

Great stuff!

Apr. 07 2009 11:58 AM
florion from NY

This vehicle will have probably more success in other countries. In order to be successful in the American market must be able to go in at least parkway. American roads have some highway type style of drive even to go grocery shopping.

Apr. 07 2009 11:57 AM
John from Brooklyn

what is the planned cargo capacity?

Apr. 07 2009 11:57 AM
MC from Manhattan

Looks kinda cool.

Apr. 07 2009 11:57 AM
Andrew Smith from amsterdam nl.

How does this new car compare with the Canta?
They are all over here in Amsterdam

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
Arnold Hidaka from Rego Park

Is it street legal?

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
jane from New York City

Legal on the sidewalk?

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
Lance from Manhattan

GM's spokesman is targeting it toward the urban market (eg NYC). Where would you be able to park it in your condo/apt in NYC? It's hard enough to house a bicycle in a sardine-sized building.

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

Why buy this thing instead of getting a consumer version of a small enclosed scooter? Other than GM wants us to?

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
Peter Benson from Manhattan

Locking, parking and charging are the most essential qualities for any vehicle designed for New York. To say that it charges "conventionally" is essentially to make it irrelevant in Manhattan.

Apr. 07 2009 11:56 AM
hjs from 11211

this is funnier than brians other april fools day joke

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
Amber from Fayetteville, Arkansas

I would NEVER allow my spouse, children or myself to drive or ride in this! I'd rather have an electric golf cart.

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
CJ from brooklyn

I just saw pictures of this and immediately had panicked visions of Park Slope mommies taking over the already crowded sidewalks of Brooklyn with these things. I'm with many of the other commenters, get a bike, or a motorcycle! Economically friendly with a bit of romance in your commute.

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
Craig from New York, NY

I can't imagine there will be a huge market for this considering you can only drive it in within the city and not on a highway. When I want a car, it's so I can get OUT of the city. Otherwise there is mass transit, walking and biking.

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
chris from prospect heights

as long as this thing rides in the main traffic lanes of the city and not the bike lanes like it shows on the PUMA site!

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

A strong "aesthetic" statement? Sounds as GM will become obsessed with the wrong emphasis, "styling" (i.e., "glitz") over functionality and safety -- as they have for decades.

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
Andrew B. from New York City

So this is where our taxpayer dollars are going?

Can't we give some more useful busy work to the welfare engineers at GM?

Apr. 07 2009 11:55 AM
ED from Staten Island

Great Idea for Staten Island Ferry Commutes!

Apr. 07 2009 11:54 AM
RL from Manhattan

Where will an apartment-dweller park this thing? A bicycle--which requires no fuel at all other than one's own energy--can be picked up and carried into one's apartment. The PUMA doesn't look like a person could pick it up and carry it up 5 flights of stairs.

Apr. 07 2009 11:54 AM
libby from manhattan

It will be a big hit with the seniors and those folks in the gated golf community in Boca and Scottsdale. Not sure I would put this up against NYC traffic - it would be like picking off a fly with M1 tank.

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
stan wexler from manhattan

How does it compare, if at all, to the Smart Car?

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
hjs from 11211

what's wrong with taking the subway!!

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
Alvin from Manhattan

Won't work in NYC. Just one word: Potholes.

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
David from NYC

Looks ridiculous. Another failure. Wasted bailout $$$.

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
Serena from NYC

Where do you put groceries? Or with two people is there even room for a briefcase?

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
pfa from brooklyn

Can you take the vehicle on a bridge or through the battery tunnel? It would suck to not be able to go from brooklyn to manhattan...

Apr. 07 2009 11:53 AM
Anne from Manhattan

It's kind of ugly. They need to take some design tips from the Smart Car.

Apr. 07 2009 11:52 AM
Harold from Lower East Side

This sounds like an expensive experiment that will never happen. Why not buy an electric scooter for, say, $200, and save yourself thousands? This sounds like a mea culpa to the White House: Aren't they saying, 'Give us money to bail us out and we'll pay lip service to your hope for green technology'?

Apr. 07 2009 11:52 AM
mel from brooklyn

i love it! i'd be terrified to drive it in the city though. i hope they make them REALLY bright colors so they don't get hit constantly.

Apr. 07 2009 11:52 AM
Steve from New York

Looks exactly like the vehicle in the "The Entity" episode of South Park. Google it, though beware, it's not safe for work.

Apr. 07 2009 11:51 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

How much does it cost?

Apr. 07 2009 11:51 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights


Apr. 07 2009 11:50 AM
Blue Davis from Brooklyn

It looks like a glorified wheelchair. A little scary on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Apr. 07 2009 11:50 AM

good thing there aren't any highways in new york city.... er, wait a minute!

Apr. 07 2009 11:50 AM
mel from brooklyn

can you take a child car seat in it?

Apr. 07 2009 11:50 AM
Gregory Mueller from Rutgers - Percussion Studio

I would not want one of these "cars". It could be stolen by two people lifting it on either side. Maybe you should carry a bike lock so you can secure it to a stop sign. Also, it looks rather dorky.

Apr. 07 2009 11:49 AM
josh kraszewski from brooklyn

There's obviously nothing wrong with power wheel chairs for disabled persons but electric vehicles are most likely going to be at the end of the day be coal powered. Unless they're solar powered? (Better yet a garbage eating device like the end of Back to the Future) Why wouldn't GM just put more resources into the Volt or another useful mode of transportation?

Apr. 07 2009 11:49 AM
Ian from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Buy and use a bike.

Apr. 07 2009 11:49 AM
SteverR from Manhattan

Best acronym-- the UAV--Urban Assault Vehicle (Winnebago) from the movie "Stripes".

"It's Chekoslokavia! We zip in, we zip out"...

Apr. 07 2009 11:49 AM
Armando from LIC

Why not 3 wheels. More stable, better ride. No need for stabilization software.

Apr. 07 2009 11:49 AM
Matthew from NYC

GM does not have the where-with-all to revolutionize the auto industry. We need the braintrusts behind companies like Apple to really make this happen. Maybe a new vehicle called the iRide?

Apr. 07 2009 11:48 AM
Lance from Manhattan

"Weather protection"? Does it have heat? Air-conditioning? Defrost?

Apr. 07 2009 11:48 AM
Lance from Manhattan

Josh[5], my thoughts exactly.

There are already power wheelchairs and electric scooters (generally used by the disabled or the elderly) in wide use. I wonder how the prices of those compare to the price of this new "car."

Apr. 07 2009 11:34 AM

A Segway/GM car??

THIS should have been your April Fool's Day item.

Apr. 07 2009 11:28 AM
josh kraszewski from brooklyn

why not just ride your bike?

it has the same weather restrictions but it's better for you and the environment. i the price point's several thousand dollars less too.

Apr. 07 2009 11:09 AM
Caitlin from Sunset Park

Oooh, I saw people driving one of these PUMAs around Brooklyn last weekend. It was a bit hilarious looking. Glad to know what it was!

Apr. 07 2009 11:05 AM
Lance from Manhattan

Does this thing have safety features, like mirrors and turn indicator & braking lights?

Also, it doesn't look like it would fare too well in inclement weather.

Apr. 07 2009 11:04 AM
mc from Brooklyn

George, maybe it is because the light trucks were protected from imports. Cars could be imported from other countries but not trucks. Trucks made by non-American companies are made in the States. So GM put all its eggs in the truck basket-short-sighted, no?

Apr. 07 2009 09:58 AM
George from Bay Ridge

Why has General Motors failed to produce a competitive subcompact, compact and midsize car to take on the imports? Toyota and Honda sell thousands of Camrys and Accords each year while GM neglected the Malibu. Meanwhile, General Motors is in the dire state it is in because it surrendered the compact car market to the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic, which sell far more than the Chevy Cobalt.

And who thought up of the stupid name for the Chevy Cruze?

Apr. 07 2009 04:12 AM

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