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Friday NY Times rare gem: “G.M.’s Electric Lemon” (Chevy Volt)

From the diaries, by Erick

“Government Motors” and its new Chevy Volt is an epic fail. Taxpayer money bought a bankrupt business, which then proceeded to build cars that no one wants to buy. Friday’s New York Times offers a rare opinion that actually makes sense:

G.M.’s Electric Lemon
By EDWARD NIEDERMEYER
Published: July 29, 2010
(…)
For starters, G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks … but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt.

$41,000! $41,000!! Is there a market for a $41,000 car that’s too small for the average American family? is there a market for a car that’s essentially the same as those selling at 1/3rd the cost?

In short, the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build. Unfortunately for this theory, G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy. And though President Obama’s task force reported in 2009 that the Volt “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short term,” it didn’t cancel the project.

How can Obama force people to buy this turkey? Make energy costs (gasoline) necessarily skyrocket. Have the EPA outlaw all other vehicles. That’ll do it. Don’t you love government? Are other countries laughing at us yet?

So the future of General Motors (and the $50 billion taxpayer investment in it) now depends on a vehicle that costs $41,000 but offers the performance and interior space of a $15,000 economy car.

Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s the problem in a nutshell.

Quantifying just how much taxpayer money will have been wasted on the hastily developed Volt is no easy feat. Start with the $50 billion bailout (without which none of this would have been necessary), add $240 million in Energy Department grants doled out to G.M. last summer, $150 million in federal money to the Volt’s Korean battery supplier, up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives, and some significant portion of the $14 billion loan G.M. got in 2008 for “retooling” its plants, and you’ve got some idea of how much taxpayer cash is built into every Volt.

Remember how Barbara Walters and Joy Behar on The View grilled President Obama about this auto bailout fiasco yesterday? No?

If G.M. were honest, it would market the car as a personal donation for, and vote of confidence in, the auto bailout. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of cross-branding that will make the Volt a runaway success.

Nice job, Edward Niedermeyer. His website is The Truth About Cars.

From PluginCars.com:

In Marketing Volt, GM Uses “It’s a Real Car” Defense, Potentially Hurting Rest of Plug-in Industry
Nick Chambers · 11 hours ago
The comparison is inevitable: Nissan LEAF versus Chevrolet Volt. As the only two mass market plug-in cars available for the first two years of the coming global wave of plug-in releases, the companies have found themselves locked in what seems to be a rather reluctant marketing battle—waging a delicate war of words as they try to woo customers.
(…)
COMMENTS
abasile · 10 hours ago
Too bad we are all shareholders in Government Motors. In my opinion, that was one bailout we didn’t need. At this point, while I hope for success for both the Volt and the LEAF, I think that Nissan’s simpler, battery-only approach will do better in the market. Paying an extra $8,000+ and losing one seat just wouldn’t cut it for my family.

Or most families. No one at Government Motors could figure that out?

From the Detroit Free Press:

Posted: July 29, 2010
Limbaugh rips GM, Chevy Volt
He questions range of electric vehicle

BY JUSTIN HYDE
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
WASHINGTON — Radio host Rush Limbaugh tore into General Motors on Wednesday over the Chevrolet Volt, while saying he had taken advertising money from GM last year during its rescue by the Obama administration.
(…)
Limbaugh spent much of the first part of his show criticizing the Volt and the $41,000 price GM revealed on Tuesday, questioning why the U.S. government needed to add a $7,500 tax credit.

“Obama and the government are admitting nobody wants this,” Limbaugh said, repeatedly referring to GM as “Obama Motors.”
(…)
Ahead of Obama’s visit Friday to GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant where the Volt is built, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Volt was symbolic of the auto industry’s comeback.

Don’t even try to spin this disaster, Gibbsie.

Today’s “Freep” tries some spin as well:

Posted: July 30, 2010
Visiting Obama deserves credit for saving GM, Chrysler
BY TOM WALSH
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
President Barack Obama comes to Detroit today, looking for love in the factories of America’s hardest-hit big city.

Beset by a sputtering jobless economic recovery, Obama will tout the federal rescues of General Motors and Chrysler as bold moves that staved off another Great Depression and saved thousands of jobs.
(…)
Sorry, but the auto rescue critics are all wet. This was much more than a handout to weather a slump. Obama’s auto task force totally reshaped a bloated and dysfunctional industry, forcing sacrifices from all, into something that now looks sensible and sustainable.

Rush Limbaugh must have sent his Obama kneepads to this guy instead of Joy Behar. Government Motors was never sensible and is not sustainable. The Volt is an overpriced lemon–and that’s today’s New York Times talking!

SUMMARY
Haven’t we said all along that the auto bailouts were a disaster? Doesn’t most of America agree when polled about it?

What kind of government goes ahead and does this anyway?

Message to Obama: Stop in at American Coney Island and be sure that every camera snaps you eating a real Michigan “Coney Island hot dog.” Be upbeat. There will be TelePrompters at GM, so no worries. Step in a Chevy Volt. Ooh! Aah! Big smile. Say “built right here in America!” Get out and stand next to the Volt and in front of the large American flag. Works every time.

Note to NY Times: Your headline is probably an insult to lemons.

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