What happened
General Motors, which lost $38.7 billion last year, said this week that it might start selling a super-efficient mini-car in the U.S., and that it planned to expand its Volt electric car program. The focus on the Volt—which will go on sale in 2010 and will run 40 miles on a charge from a household outlet—represents a huge shift for a company that was dependent on profits from gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups. (Bloomberg)

What the commentators said
The Volt is revolutionary, said Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic. Unlike other hybrids, it’s not a gasoline engine that gets a boost from batteries. It’s an electric car with a gas-powered generator on board to recharge its batteries. Whether the struggling automaker can make the car work, and save itself, however, is an open question.

No, actually, it isn’t, said Holman W. Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal. GM executives are nuts if they think that pouring hundreds of millions into a vehicle “guaranteed to lose money on every unit sold” is a winning strategy for “a company in dire liquidity straits.” What happens when notoriously volatile gasoline prices drop and Americans start demanding Hummers again?

Then, of course, GM executives would look “exceptionally stupid,” said Eric Peters in The American Spectator. But, like any brave move, it could pay off. “If GM pulls it off, it will have a shot at rehabbing its image—tarnished almost to bare metal after years of indifferent and mediocre product and behind-the-curve reactive thinking.”