When Figures Lie: Chevy Volt Puts the Government in Government Motors

John Ransom
Posted: Sep 01, 2012 12:01 AM

If there was any doubt from skeptics about the complicity of the Obama administration in creating and directing the “new” General Motors –a.k.a Government Motors- the latest ballyhoo regarding sales figures and the Chevy Volt should convince even the doubters.

GM: Aug. Volt sales best yet says the Detroit News.

GM Expects Volt Sales to Set Monthly Record says the normally sane Wall Street Journal.

Chevy Volt broke monthly sales record in August reports the Associated Press.

But like a lot of claims coming from Obama or one his corporate surrogates, the Volt sales numbers surely aren’t signs of success, but rather just the opposite. And if the doublespeak doesn’t point to government involvement in the development, sale and ultimate failure of the Volt, it certainly betrays a government mentality that believes that perception matters more than results.

And the difference between Obama’s perception and the actual results in our economy is the chasm where all of our jobs have gone. 

Because General Motors has sold only half the number of Volts that they said they would this year, and the company is idling the Volt production line to retool it for a car that’s actually selling: the Chevy Impala.

Investors aren’t fooled, even if some journalists and a few metroed, urban hipsters are.

From MarketWatch:

GM has suspended production of the all-electric car for a month so they can retool the plant to make more Chevy Impalas. Read more about the Volt’s production issues.

But not many are buying the company’s explanation or the car, for that matter. So far this year, GM has sold about 11,000 Volts — far less than hoped and planned for by the auto maker. The market has spoken: Most Americans simply are not ready for an electric car from Detroit.

They’re not ready, because unlike the president and his one percent crowd, Americans make decision on car purchases based on economics.

The website ExtremeTech calculates that the car costs about 6.3 cents per mile when running on electricity at 13 cents per kilowatt hour. But that rate ignores depreciating the cost of a replacement battery ($8,000) over the life of the battery warranty.

When you add in the cost of the battery depreciation, you get a calculation of about 14.3 cents per mile for the Volt. As the tech site notes: “A compact car getting 35 mpg would cost 10 cents per mile using $3.50-a-gallon gasoline.”  So in other words, the Volt, in addition to the high cost to purchase, costs 43% more to operate than a conventional car.

That’s why the Volt is the perfect car for the Occupy Wall Street crowd: It makes no economic sense no matter how convoluted its supporters make the economic argument or how much taxpayer support it’s given. 

The Volt initially relied heavily on $7,500 federal government subsidies- and even then couldn’t make a go of it.

This marks the second time that GM has idled Volt production, while claiming “All is well.”

So now I’m wondering if former Ford Executive and the U.S. Defense Secretary who presided over the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, is in charge of public relations for GM.

If the Volt’s not in the federal witness protection program, it ought to be.

“Sales also took a hit last fall when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a probe into why two Volts burst into flames days or weeks after severe NHTSA crash testing,” reported USA Today.

Leaks from the cooling system were caused by shortages in the electrical system that prompted the fires. But the discovery came only after weeks of bad press for GM. Eventually the car company offered to buy back every single Volt for any consumer who was unhappy.

But lack of sales and spontaneous fires haven’t stopped the government-owned car company from mapping out a marketing strategy that might have been fashioned by the marketing geniuses of the IRS and the United States Postal Service combined: “The Volt’s technology and its recent accolade from Consumer Reports make the Volt a marketing tool for Chevy,” said Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet U.S. sales, at the beginning of December according to Bloomberg. “This vehicle is about more than how many we sell,” Batey said. “This vehicle is a magnet around everything we are trying to do to showcase our brand.”

Only someone infected by the government bug would say that the success of a car company isn’t about the actual numbers of cars they sell.

But maybe that’s because the company has bigger problems than just the Volt.

The Chevy Cruze, which is the same car, right down to the lug nuts as the Chevy Volt, only minus the voltage, is being investigated for engine fires that Reuters says “in many cases completely engulfed the vehicles in flames.” 

So, let me be the first to apologize to General Motors.

I’ve been complaining about the supposed environmental benefits of the Volt, of the subsidies to the Volt compared to the Cruze and the of the $23,000 difference in sticker price between the Cruze and the Volt.

I was wrong.

Quite obviously you were right, General Motors.

The environmental benefits of the Volt- which reports have shown only create relatively small fires contained in the engine compartment of the Volt- far outweigh the fires in  conventional General Motors cars, like the Cruze, which may engulf the entire vehicle in flames.  

Score one for Government Motors.

And notify the EPA, EMS and other first-responders. 

Because I’m sure the out-of-work geniuses in solar industry are pitching Obama right now on an even more expensive and dangerous concept car.