Why is GM Spending Millions to Re-Hype the Chevy Volt?

In the words of Yogi Berra, it looks like déjà vu all over again as General Motors plans to “relaunch” the Chevy Volt. Just in case you missed the first rollout that saw certain financial news networks dedicate loads of airtime to help GM build the hype surrounding a vehicle that was to be a savior for GM as support was garnered for a taxpayer bailout and subsequent IPO, we now get a second take on the failed first production.

Many of the same cast will appear as cronies at Motor Trend will be cited for giving the Volt Car of the Year award. If there was any question that Motor Trend is in the tank for GM and the Volt, just look at their report on January Volt sales where they stated, “As for the most improved models, there were some interesting inclusions: the best model was the Volt, which rose 87.9 percent to 603 sales.” It takes a heck of a lot of optimism (but a lot less integrity) to proclaim 603 sales in a month a success, but I guess the bar for the Volt is pretty low.

It remains to be seen if commentators on news networks that lost credibility hyping the first Volt rollout and GM IPO will be utilized to help spread the word again. Will journalistic integrity be sacrificed once more for ad revenue or swayed by some influential sources that have a vested interest in seeing the Volt succeed? But the primary question that needs to be asked is, why is GM spending millions of dollars to hype a car that sold only 603 last month and is a money loser for the company?

The management at GM can not possibly be so incompetent as to believe that Americans are going to start buying Volts in large numbers just because they see aliens touting the car on Super Bowl Sunday. Considering that the aliens in the Super Bowl ad end up seeming to be pretty randy and more interested in the Volt owner’s wife, I don’t think they serve as much better pitchmen than those at Motor Trend. Other Volt ads point to the vehicle as the car America “had to build.” Why?

I really don’t think there are that many consumers that can afford the high price tag of the Volt who aren’t already aware of the vehicle. While GM CEO, Dan Akerson, complains about the Volt being a political football, what reason is there to spend so heavily on Volt advertising if not political? The car is not profitable for GM. It is clear that wide demand is not there for the vehicle. And the Obama Administration stands to gain if the public can be fooled into believing that the Volt is a huge success, although I can’t see how that is going to happen, even when crony corporation General Electric starts to make good on its promise to buy thousands of the vehicles.

The other reason for hyping the Volt is to drive consumers into showrooms to bait and switch them to the Chevy Cruze, which has much better mass market appeal. I seem to be one of the few people to find this an unethical use of the taxpayer money that has gone into producing the Volt. The idea of using taxpayer money to promote the Volt was to help the environment and lessen oil dependence (shaky claims), not to help sell other vehicles for GM.

The future will tell what is in store for the Volt. It seems that GM will not back off from the Volt fiasco and will continue to try and fool the public into thinking that low sales were first the result of lack of supply and later a victim of a right wing conspiracy to hurt sales. There is not much reason to ask GM why they are spending so heavily to promote a vehicle that loses money for them, it’s obvious that they are not prepared to come clean. As long as the Volt folly continues, fueled by the Obama Administration’s campaign on the perception of success at GM, investors and taxpayers should be skeptical of the rosy projections for great future profitability at Government Motors.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow