How did a start-up electric car company that raised more than $1 billion suddenly fail to meet government-lending standards, to the point where it can no longer draw on an awarded Department of Energy loan and has therefore halted renovation work on a Delaware plant?
Now Wall Street analysts are wondering the same thing, and the beleaguered lenders at the Department of Energy must be deeply concerned about what they will do next. As Forbesreported yesterday, the close ties between the two speculative companies could produce “two Solyndras for the price of one."
In the words of Yogi Berra, it looks like déjà vu all over again as General Motors plans to "relaunch" the Chevy Volt. Just in case you missed the first rollout that saw certain financial news networks dedicate loads of airtime to help GM build the hype surrounding a vehicle that was to be a savior for GM as support was garnered for a taxpayer bailout and subsequent IPO, we now get a second take on the failed first production.
Among the objections about taxpayer subsidies for the high-profile Chevy Volt, manufactured by Government Motors, is that the many grants, loans and tax breaks that lowered the sticker price on the electric hybrid car facilitated its (paltry) sales for the benefit of wealthier individuals who were purchasing it – those with average annual salaries of $170,000. So can you imagine how happy the affluent customers (like Leonardo DiCaprio) of the heavily subsidized, $102,000 electric Fisker Karma are, to be able to purchase their gimmicky sports sedan at a discount, with a $7,500 tax credit to boot?
"It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody." Thus President Obama laid down the gauntlet in his recent State of the Union address. Yet he remains committed to subsidizing industries. And mortgage lending is high on his priority list. In his speech, he announced a plan that "gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates...A small fee on the largest institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust."
It is mostly unanimous that Clint Eastwood's Super Bowl ad appearance was a stirring and emotional tribute to America and Detroit. The ad was heartfelt, despite the fact that bailed out Italian-owned auto company, Chrysler, paid for it. Unless NBC offered some significant discounts to their ad rates, the ad cost Chrysler about $14 million. Considering the political nature of the ad and the fact that Chrysler vehicles were not touted in the ad, I must ask the cynical question; what's in it for Italian-owned Chrysler?
Some very humorous (if not cost-effective) ads were exhibited by General Motors during this year's Super Bowl game. GM continues to freely spend its stockpile of taxpayer supplied cash reserve as it even aired a spot touting the Chevy Volt. At a cost of $3.5 million for a 30 second spot the expense equals about 15% of the total revenues GM brought in during the entire month of January for the Volt when sales fell to a dismal level of 603. What is the reasoning behind spending so much to advertise a vehicle that sells in such small numbers and is not profitable if not political? But the ad that may lead to more controversy than the Volt folly was the one in which GM claims their trucks are more dependable than Ford's; a claim that is highly debatable and not backed by studies at Consumers Reports (CR).
President Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month that he would not “walk away from the promise of clean energy,” and according to a Politico report, he “doubled-down” on the promise by highlighting (more) commitments to federal grants and incentives for wind energy, solar power and natural gas vehicles in quasi-campaign speeches out West.
I recently questioned the existence of a binding "no-strike clause" that the media reported on back when General Motors was making a plea for its taxpayer-funded bailout. The claims were that the UAW could not strike at GM or Chrysler until 2015. UAW Communications Coordinator, Tom Brune, has responded and gave a bit of clarification as to what the so-called no-strike clause actually means.