New Tesla Fires, Old Volt Ones Explained, Not Absolved

Tesla fireTesla’s once-Teflon Tony Stark Elon Musk, the adored Paypal/SpaceX/electric-car innovator who’s been showered with unmitigated media praise and highly inflated stock values, has another lithium ion battery fire to explain.

This one happened after a Model S crash in Mexico. The last one happened less than a month ago in Kent, Wash. Since then Tesla’s share price has fallen from $193.90 on Sept. 30 to $160.58 this afternoon. The irrational exuberance that made the electric automaker the darling of Wall Street has now become merely excitable, although still unjustifiably so. Even Musk himself told Bloomberg last week, “The stock price that we have is more than we have any right to deserve.”

While the fanboy fave exhibited a measure of humility about Tesla’s stock market prestige, the two fires have not moved the needle in that respect. The official stance the company took in both cases … Read More ➡

State Pension Funds and Big Investment Firms: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (Part 2)

Piggy bankLast month, I wrote about pressure on state pension funds, many of which are underfunded and are facing immense pressure to chase higher returns. I profiled a $125 million investment made by the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board (NMERB) into Gramercy, a Connecticut-based hedge fund.

As we showed last month, there were some gaps between what Gramercy disclosed to NMERB and what we found in official records. Now Gramercy is making big news as a potential facilitator of a settlement between Argentina and holdout creditors.  According to news reports, Gramercy and other bondholders who took Argentina’s 2010 bond exchange are pushing a settlement.

Apparently this has been in the works for a while, according to a presentation Gramercy made to New Hampshire’s retirement fund in 2012. Click here to download a 47-page pdf version. We obtained this via New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know law. Note the detail on page 22 on Gramercy’s … Read More ➡

Taxpayer-Funded Solar Company Leaves Environmental, Financial Mess

solar panelsIt may be the height of irony that a company that was supposed to soar to the top of the new clean energy economy, with the help of U.S. taxpayers to undergird President Obama’s stimulus visions, has instead left both an environmental and financial mess after its demise.

Yet that’s exactly the case with miserable failure Abound Solar, which the president’s Department of Energy thought so much of, they awarded it a $400 million loan guarantee. That proposition quickly soured and the government halted payouts after about $70 million. The company went bankrupt in June 2012, leaving taxpayers out between $40 million and $60 million that was never recovered.

There was other collateral damage, not the least of which was a huge toxic mess from unused panels and abandoned chemicals at Abound’s former facilities. The environmental nightmare was discovered earlier this year, but this month – thanks to … Read More ➡

GM Dealers Say Low Demand, Not Lack of Supply Explain Poor Truck Sales

Chevy pickupThe past month has brought much confusion and concern for General Motors’ shareholders regarding the most important and profitable segment of sales for the company. As the company prepares to report earnings for the third quarter this week, media reports are still unclear on just what is going on with GM’s new truck lineup; specifically pertaining to the reasons behind the disappointing sales figures that were reported for the month of September when Ford’s truck offerings left them in the dust.

While GM’s Obama-appointed management spun the story (claiming supply could not keep up with demand) to some in the media who are gullible enough to print the misinformation without question, some GM dealers were more honest with their assessment.

GM’s management has lots of experience when it comes to trying to deceptively explain away poor sales of much-hyped vehicles. The Chevy Volt has never lived up to … Read More ➡

Walmart Prefers Political Correctness to Profitability

Mike Duke photoLast week it was Walmart CEO Mike Duke’s duty to find an explanation for continuing declines in same store sales, as the company hosted its 20th Annual Meeting for the Investment Community on Tuesday.

Despite the fact that the most recent quarterly report ended in July and brought a surprising (to analysts) .3 percent drop for the second quarter, when a one percent gain was expected, Duke cited the two-week old government shutdown and a “tough and unpredictable global economy” as reasons for the poor performance.

“It should come as no surprise that the government shutdown is on the minds of our U.S. customers,” Duke told his audience. “As you would expect, we’re following the situation very closely.”

Of course the shutdown came long after the second quarter reports, so there had to be other explanations.

“The competition is also tough,” Duke said. “I see it when I … Read More ➡

GM’s Advertising Identity Crisis Hurting Sales

Volt gay adIt looks like General Motors is going through an identity crisis as its marketing strategy has flip-flopped by changing its targeted audience. The new General Motors’ truck ad, “Strong,” targets conservatives by honoring a heroic and manly GM truck buyer with lyrics that describe him as a “love one woman for all his life” type of guy who arrived at work on time for twenty straight years. The rugged, heterosexual identity of today’s GM differs greatly from last year’s politically correct version when the company won praise for running a “gay” Chevy Volt ad and for flying rainbow banners to celebrate America’s sexual diversity.

As mentioned recently on NLPC, the new GM truck ads have done little to pull buyers of any sexual orientation into dealerships. A recent survey (unveiled here) points to the fact that conservative truck buyers still hold it against GM for taking billions of taxpayer dollars … Read More ➡

Survey: Auto Bailout is Drag on GM Truck Sales

A consumer survey taken last week on behalf of the National Legal and Policy Center confirms that public disapproval of the auto bailout continues to dog General Motors, and is likely hurting pickup truck sales, a highly profitable segment of its line.

When 500 consumers in Texas were asked, “Would your decision to buy a specific brand of truck be influenced by whether that company received financial assistance from the federal government?,” 40.08% answered “absolutely.”  Another 11.75% responded “very likely,” and 10.60% responded “likely.” Thus, more than 60% said that the bailout would have some influence on their decision.

Only 23.89% responded “not too likely.”

Texas is the largest truck market in the country, with more sales than the next three states combined.

The release of the survey results comes amidst a major advertising campaign for GM’s full-size trucks – the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra – with significant visibility … Read More ➡

Are Truck Buyers Avoiding GM Because of Bailout?

One of the most disappointing aspects of last week’s sales results from General Motors was the underperformance of the much-hyped new truck offerings from the company. While the industry-leading Ford F-Series saw sales increase about 10 percent to around 60,500 vehicles for the month, GM’s combined sales for its competing Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra fell approximately 8 percent to about 46,000 units.

GM’s Obama-appointed management’s performance in trying to explain the declining sales was as lame as the sales results. Amongst the excuses for disappointing truck sales, GM did not include the possibility that a hangover from the auto bailout is contributing to the dip and to many consumers GM still stands for “Government Motors.”

Demographically, truck buyers are older, less urban and more politically conservative than other consumers, just the kind of people who are responsible for all the internet postings along the lines of, “I’ll never buy … Read More ➡

New Book Identifies Cronyism as Outcome of Big Government, Source of Corruption

book coverAll too often, maintaining an enterprise, especially a new one, depends on knowing the right people in government from whom to acquire favors. Such an arrangement has come to be known as “cronyism.” And it justifiably has its critics. Among them are Randall Holcombe and Andrea Castillo, authors of a brief, but potent and timely new book, “Liberalism and Cronyism: Two Rival Political and Economic Systems,” published by the Mercatus Center, a think tank affiliated with George Mason University. Holcombe, a Florida State University economics professor, and Castillo, a Mercatus associate, view cronyism as the antithesis of liberalism. Rather than establish clearly- defined and evenly-enforced rules of behavior (as liberalism does), cronyism subordinates business decisions to political ambition and connections. It’s a science that the Obama administration in particular has taken to a new level.

To understand cronyism requires an understanding of its putative antidote: liberalism. The authors … Read More ➡

Tesla Fire is About Rushing, Subsidizing Immature Technology, Not Stock Price

Tesla fireA fire (screen capture from Jalopnik.com) that torched a Model S from the formerly Teflon Tesla Motors on Tuesday blackened its front end, lowered its stock price, and (further) revealed a corporate arrogance not seen since Fisker Karmas were alight.

But CEO Elon Musk saw to it that taxpayers were fully paid back their $465 million Department of Energy loan, so as watchdogs over the public purse we can forget all about it and just go on about our business – right?

Wrong. The incident near Seattle still should be of great concern because Tesla still heavily depends on tax breaks (like the consumer’s $7,500 federal credit) and the sale of emissions credits (mainly from California) to partially subsidize the costs of their electric cars. Moreover, the government has invested billions of dollars in the research and development of new battery technology, all in the name of energy efficiency … Read More ➡

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