After the Department of Energy announced this week it had given up on not-bankrupt-but-should-be Fisker Automotive, and will auction off its loan for a pittance, you’d think (and hope) Congress would have had enough of this kind of thing. Senator John Thune certainly has.
“The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said the South Dakota Republican yesterday. “I’m calling for the Senate to consider my amendment to eliminate the wasteful ATVM loan program and for my colleagues to join me in protecting taxpayer dollars from any future risky green energy investments.”
Then in mid-August Ecotality informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was in deep financial trouble, with bankruptcy a possibility. A filing showed that the company was unable to obtain additional financing and the DOE had ceased payments to it for the EV Project until the agency could investigate further. DOE also warned Ecotality to not incur any new costs or obligations under the EV Project.
The internet has been abuzz with stories about General Motors competing with Tesla by offering a vehicle that will get 200 miles on an electric charge and cost only $30,000. One headline even declared that GM might be the winner of the competition with the title reading, "GM Takes on Tesla- and Just Might Win." The only problem is that the car being hyped does not even exist. Nor may it ever.
It looks like General Motors is attempting to make up for the money it loses on every Chevy Volt in volume as August sales, spurred by recent price cuts, reached an all-time high of 3,351. The fact that the car has been on the market for about three years and initial much-hyped proclamations from GM would have put sales at 20,000 per month by now goes unrecognized by those that think 3,351 vehicles is a lot of cars to sell in a month. To put the sales in perspective, it took Toyota about 2 ½ days to sell that many Camrys with August sales coming in at 44,731. Fortunately for taxpayers, Volt sales are nowhere near those figures. The 3,351 Volt sales came at the expense of over $25 million dollars of federal subsidies.
The auto industry, including Detroit manufacturers, reported strong sales numbers for the month of August. Sales for the industry rang in at pre-recession levels hitting over 16 million units on an annualized basis. While General Motors got its fair share of the wealth, one unusual tactic to drive sales stands out. That is the use of "stair-step" incentives which are paid to dealerships in the month following the reported sales.
For years the Obama Administration maintained that they had no significant involvement in the day to day operations at General Motors as the company was guided through a taxpayer-funded bankruptcy process. A report from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) now sheds light on the process and confirms that the Administration did, in fact, drive decisions at GM. One such decision saw GM provide taxpayer funds to "top-off" pensions for politically-favored UAW retirees at Delphi while non-union retirees lost the majority of their benefits. Treasury officials previously denied any involvement in the actions.
The Chevy Volt madness continued this week with General Motors announcing that consumers will see a $5,000 decrease in the price of President Obama's favorite green wonder-car. Sales of the Volt have been dismal, with most consumers refusing to be as smitten with the car as the President and the few enthusiastic green ideologues who seemed to believe that spending approximately $20,000 more for a car (over a gas-powered rival) that can save them about $3 a day in gas makes sense. What seems to go unrecognized is the fact that the price cut comes at the expense of GM shareholders, not to mention the costs to American taxpayers.