GE Steps Up Support for GM Chevy Volt Folly

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Last week, Greencarreports.com reported that crony corporation, General Electric, will be purchasing only Chevy Volts for employee use. The move will help General Motors proclaim that the Volt is a success (and help ensure that GE sells more charging stations) as thousands of orders for the vehicle hit the books, conveniently timed to coincide with the run up to the 2012 presidential election.

The Volt has not caught on with the majority of consumers as the benefits of traveling 20 to 45 miles on an electric charge before getting about 30 miles per gallon on premium fuel do not outweigh the cost of over $40,000. The wealthy purchasers who have been able to afford the car defend the vehicle and proclaim it to be a technological wonder.

GM has had various unsubstantiated excuses for the low sales of the Volt ranging from lack of supply to a right wing conspiracy that disparaged the vehicle. The GE orders are also being coordinated with a multi-million dollar ad blitz for the Volt. There has not been any reasonable explanation as to why GM is spending so much for a car that loses money for them and sells in such small numbers. Government Motors seems to have dug a deep hole as they over-hyped prospects for the Volt only to see the vehicle rejected by the tax-paying masses that paid to bring the car to market. The GE purchases now will be pointed to as evidence of success for a subsidized vehicle that can not survive without huge taxpayer handouts and support from crony corporations like GE that have a vested interest in the success of the vehicle.

The above mentioned report was written by a Chevy Volt supporter who gives a viewpoint that the GE purchases are based on a desire to save money over time for the company. Nonsense. The author also realizes that GE makes money selling charging stations for the vehicles, one of the primary reasons the company supports the vehicle. GE is probably the biggest beneficiary of green handouts of the Obama Administration with its hand in wind power and EV development, which if successful will result in even more profits from power grid infrastructure contracts in addition to the charging stations. GE has also committed to buying some of the first Volts built in China, as long as they get the contract to build charging stations there; another example of how blatant the crony capitalism is.

One of the most telling statements in the Green Car Reports article quoted a memo sent by GE to employees and stated, "If no electric power is available, driving the Volt using only its gasoline range extender is permitted." This statement gives evidence that GE has no grand benevolent plan to save the planet. In essence they are telling employees, drive the vehicle, even if you don't want to charge them you can run on fuel. GE also tells employees that they can not opt out of the program and will not be reimbursed for vehicles that are not Chevy Volts. So, GE will let you drive a Volt for free and run it on gas but will not reimburse you for driving an all-electric Nissan Leaf, polar bears be damned!

We should see a huge pick up in the percentage of vehicles that are sold to fleets when future sales figures for the Volt are released. Given the deceptiveness of Government Motors regarding the Chevy Volt, it is possible that GE is able to get their employees into Volts and manage to have GM record the sales as going to individual buyers rather than to fleets. GM should be questioned as to how many of the future Volt sales go to crony GE or its employees.

The Obama Administration, which also has a vested interest in the success of the Chevy Volt, has upped the ante as well. They now want wealthy purchasers of Chevy Volts and other EVs to receive $10,000 in federal subsidies in addition to the typical thousands offered by states. The goal of having a million EVs on the road within a few years should be reached if enough taxpayer dollars are spent on the fiasco. Crony corporations like GE will help with their purchases. So, $10 billion in tax credits will be spent to obtain a goal of a million EVs. And while crony GE and the rich buyers of EVs have wealth redistributed to them from working-class taxpayers, the American public gets nothing for the handouts.

I have heard the criticisms from those that think an American auto company should be supported, regardless of how much was taken from taxpayers. To those I would say buy a Ford, a company that didn't get bailed out and pays taxes. Bailed-out GM owes taxpayers billions of dollars and pays no taxes thanks to tax law changes made by the Obama Administration which were designed to help the company while the President campaigns on the "success" at GM. After all, shouldn't we support those that pay their fair share?

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.