The final tally is in for 2012 Chevy Volt sales. The good news (which is what most headlines will trumpet) is that sales for General Motors' flagship green vehicle tripled from 2011's paltry 7,671 to a slightly less paltry 23,461 in 2012. The bad news is that the number is almost half of GM's sales goal of 45,000 in 2012 for the Volt. The further bad news is that the Volt has so little demand in most regions that some dealerships are refusing to pay for required tools to repair the vehicles and are choosing to cease selling the vehicles instead.
General Motors moved quickly to complete its buyback of 200 million shares from the US Treasury Department before year end. It is a welcome sign that the Obama Administration is finally beginning to exit taxpayers' GM stake, a move that could have been made a year and a half ago when share price was closer to $30. While some felt it was never the place of Government to gamble taxpayer money on Wall Street by market timing the exit of Treasury's GM stake, others argued that taxpayers would be better served by waiting until GM share price rose to at least over the $33 IPO price of two years ago.
Let's all rejoice! The Treasury Department is finally beginning to unload the taxpayers' stake in General Motors after a three and a half year stint of government involvement in the company. While the decision to get taxpayers out of the private sector is the correct one, the move is hardly a cure-all for what ails GM. And despite reports to the contrary, this does not bring closure to all groups that were involved in the unprecedented intrusion of government into the private sector that saw politically-powerful groups like the UAW receive favorable treatment over other classes.
It would appear that there is a bit of a Mexican standoff regarding the sale of General Motors stock by the three major holders. The US government (aka taxpayers), the UAW and the Canadian government have a combined ownership stake in GM of about 50%. If any of these three were to dump their shares on the market, the remaining holders will see a drop in the value of their shares due to the dilutive effect of the new shares hitting the market. Recent stories regarding the mindset of the Canadian government reveal that they will mirror the market-timing philosophy of the US government by hanging on to their stake. The decision may be driven by closed door meetings with US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.
General Motors is making more ridiculous claims on the Chevy Volt by flooding the web with stories of how 100 million electric miles have been driven since the Volt's much-hyped inception. Let's put the boasting in perspective. In the two plus years that it took for Volt drivers to put on 100 million miles, gas-powered vehicles logged over 5 TRILLION miles in the US. It would take only 5,000 cars traveling 10,000 miles a year to log 100 million miles in two years. The Volt has fallen far short of sales goals and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars in subsidies to reach the much-publicized but unimpressive milestone. So, what's the net reduction in gas usage in the US as a result of the Volt's accomplishment? Less than .002%.
Albert Einstein is credited with having defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, prepare for more insanity as General Motors is doubling down on green energy and plug-in cars after the disappointing sales results from previous entries into the field. The politically-motivated hype that we saw, and continue to see, on the Chevy Volt will be repeated. This time the over-hyped vehicle will be a Korean-made, all-electric Chevy Spark.
It is being suggested that President Obama's reelection was at least in part helped by the auto industry bailouts, or more accurately, the portrayal of the bailouts by the president and the media. It is therefore important to surmise that the precedent setting auto bankruptcy proceedings saw billions of taxpayer dollars used to not only help the industry, but to fund the reelection of the sitting president that orchestrated the process.
General Motors is criticizing Mitt Romney for running an ad that says GM cut 15,000 jobs under the Obama Administration. The Detroit Free Press reported that GM spokesman Greg Martin (speaking about the Romney ad) stated, "No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."
Leaving aside for a moment the bigger issue of a taxpayer-supported entity improperly inserting itself in an election, lets examine the facts. A look at GM's annual SEC filings gives a clear picture of how many people were employed by the company both before and after the Obama Administration guided the company through a bankruptcy process.