Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, seems to have reached cult status with green ideologues, as well as with many in the media. Musk's name often goes hand in hand with descriptive monikers like "visionary" and "genius." Of course, what Musk is really a genius at is getting politicians to fund his private businesses ventures with taxpayer money so they don't have to make a profit.
It might be time to step back and ponder just how genius Musk's latest idea is; which is for Tesla to compete with Ford's best selling F-series trucks by offering up an electric pickup truck.
North Carolina Democratic Congressman Melvin Watt has a dream job: running a federal agency that controls around $5 trillion in financial assets. For now, he'll have to keep dreaming about it. On October 31, the Senate, by a 57-41 margin, fell three votes shy of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate) over President Obama's nomination of Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which for over five years has been conservator for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans, with two exceptions, voted to filibuster, believing he wasn't qualified to run the agency. Yet the main problem with Watt is less his qualifications than his view that FHFA should be a permanent agency, and one with favoritism toward nonwhites.
General Motors had another disappointing month of sales for its much-hyped green wonder-car in October. Sales for the Chevy Volt plunged over 31 percent from last year, down to 2,022 units for the month. To put that number in perspective, Toyota sells that many Toyota Camrys in about two days. Or, GM is selling less than one Volt per Chevy dealership per month.
The 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.
It 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.
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.
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.
All 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.
General Motors reported unimpressive sales results for the month of September as sales fell 11%. Core division, Chevrolet, performed the worst with sales down almost 15% year over year. Within that division, sales for the much-hyped Chevy Volt could not even be propped up with its recent $5,000 price cut as results declined to a measly 1,766 units (less than one per dealership) in September. That is a decline of over 38% year over year and just over half of what sold in the previous month.
We now have had some time to digest the groundbreaking news from General Motors that it is working on a "Tesla-Killer" electric car that will get 200 miles on a charge and cost about $30,000. The most obvious takeaway is that the news is more unfounded green hype from GM, something that they have been guilty of in the past when they over-promised on the Chevy Volt. The best indicator of how serious a challenge to Tesla the new report really is would be found in Tesla's share price, which has gone from about $165 a share at the time of the news to the current price at around $185. While that barometer would give the indication that GM is once again exaggerating the potential for its latest green miracle car, let's assume that the technology to develop a car that goes 200 miles on an electric charge at a price of $30,000 really is not too far off.