Anyone following the Chevy Volt story has seen the internet headlines trumpeting the blog by General Motors' Bob Lutz in which he blasts Bill O'Reilly, Fox News and what he calls, "the rabid, sadly misinformed right." It remains a mystery as to why GM would take a political stance, and seek to identify with one ideological faction over another. It's ridiculous to blame poor Volt sales on a Republican conspiracy. It is also pretty stupid. After all, some of the people who buy cars are Republicans.
General Motors' CEO, Dan Akerson, is scheduled to testify at congressional hearings on the NHTSA delay in reporting Chevy Volt fires. GM and the government agency waited about five months to report an incident involving a Volt which erupted in flames weeks after a crash-test. Up to this point, Akerson has not exactly been honest about the Volt; can we now expect him to come clean?
General Motors has announced it is buying back Chevy Volts from any purchasers who are concerned about safety risks associated with the vehicle. NHTSA is currently investigating fires that occurred after crash tests of the vehicles when the volatile lithium-ion batteries ignited days after the tests. Any buybacks of the vehicles sets the stage for wealthy purchasers to take advantage of lax rules for the $7,500 tax credit available on the vehicle. Essentially, many purchasers can return their Volts and then go ahead and apply for the credit, even though they do not currently own the vehicle and received a refund of what they paid for the car.
Many articles written over the past year have questioned if President Obama will be able to reach his goal of having a million electric vehicles on US roads in 2015. A more important fact has been overlooked. That is, even if we get a million EVs on the roads in four years, we will have done practically nothing to reduce oil consumption in America. To be more specific, we will reduce consumption by approximately 0.15%. Is it worth the billions of taxpayer dollars spent producing controversial vehicles like the Chevy Volt in order to lessen foreign oil dependence four years from now by 0.15%?
A new report by USA Today offers further evidence that demand for the much-hyped Chevy Volt is not living up to the great expectations laid out by General Motors. Additional negative news includes an overheating charger fault and a power loss glitch, both of which were recently exposed. The USA Today piece cites a study by CNW Marketing that revealed that "prospects are starting to lose interest in the Volt."
Sales of the much-hyped Chevy Volt fell to new lows as did GM share price as July auto sales figures came in. Only 125 Volts were sold during the month of July. Recent reports attributed the slump to supply constraints as GM spokeswoman, Michelle Bunker, was quoted as saying that the Volt was "virtually sold out" and only a "few" were available nationwide. I have confirmed that this statement is not entirely truthful and have gotten clarification from GM through Director of Communications, Greg Martin.
According to a report by the Detroit News, General Motors claims that it now has fewer than 100 Chevy Volts sitting on dealer lots. In addition, only 1 in 9 dealers are offering the vehicles for sale. However, a search for Volt inventory on the cars.com website uncovers 500 new Chevy Volts advertised for sale to the public. This data confirms that GM dealerships are using a version of "bait and switch" to lure consumers into showrooms by advertising Chevy Volts that are not truly available for purchase.
According to CNBC, General Motors has ramped up its lobbying efforts to the tune of $3.58 million in the first quarter of 2011. This is nearly triple the $1.36 million it spent in the first quarter of the prior year. It is also over double the $1.67 million spent by non-bailed out Ford in the same quarter. The $50 billion that taxpayers gave to bail out GM is now partially being distributed back to President Obama, Congress and a variety of agencies in an effort by GM to, well, receive more taxpayer money.