Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt
For the second time in the last two decades, General Motors experienced first-hand the perils of EV leadership. Back in the '90s, it was saddled with the EV-1. This time around, it's the Volt plug-in. Sales have lagged forecasts, and the federal government launched an investigation into the danger of battery fires after accidents. Even Michigan-born Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dissed the Volt, calling it "an idea whose time has not yet come." Undeterred, CEO Dan Akerson declared GM would buy back cars from unhappy owners and ordered a boost in production to 60,000 from less than 10,000. 2012 will be a critical year for Volt.

By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large @FortuneMagazine - Last updated January 04 2012: 9:37 AM ET
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