Being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry. It now seems that the same philosophy holds true with government-owned General Motors. About eight months ago some owners of Chevy Volts complained that charging cords were overheating, sometimes to the point of melting. At the time, GM blamed owners, saying the wall outlets were the culprits. We now finally have GM addressing the safety concerns and agreeing to replace charging cords for all 9,500 Volts that have been sold since production began. But in what is becoming a new public relations precedent, the move is not being called a “recall.”
The non-recall recall is instead referred to as a customer satisfaction action which is designed to “offer a more consistent charging experience.” The political strategy is becoming more and more evident at GM as Chevy Volt sales continue to struggle and the 2012 presidential election nears. Excuses have been made for low sales of the Volt, starting with supply constraints and more recently involving a Republican conspiracy to hurt sales. GM refuses to admit the real reason that the Volt doesn’t sell well is that the car is too expensive for most consumers and the savings from gas usage do not justify the high cost. The blame game that is being played at GM regarding the Chevy Volt further exemplifies the political undertones at the company.
We now have the second non-recall at GM for the Volt. The first non-recall was for reinforcements to the battery pack after test vehicles at NHTSA ignited days after crash tests. In both cases, GM was adamant that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Volt; it is either the fault of owners with faulty wiring or right-wing media sources. Just in case the denials are not enough to convince the voting…I mean the car buying public, GM has stepped up ad spending for the Volt on those TV networks that are accused of criticizing the car. The spending seems to be quieting the criticism.
I just saw a piece on that network that was accused of unfairly criticizing the Volt. The car is now endorsed and a graph was displayed that exhibited the benefits to America if 30 million Volts are on the roads in 10 years. But that’s not all, folks. The amazing Volt can “help win the war on terror.” You have to see this video to believe it.
30 million Volts on the road? Why not a gazillion? The ridiculous “journalism” can not be taken seriously, despite the fair and balanced attempt to offer something in return to GM for all the ad revenue, it is doubtful such obviously fabricated numbers will drive sales of the Volt. Even if sales increased over tenfold, it would take 300 years, not 10, to get 30 million Volts on the road.
The main subject for debate regarding the Chevy Volt and cars like it, is the taxpayer costs versus benefits, not how popular the car is or isn’t. Let’s summarize once again what the proposed goal of President Obama to have a million electric vehicles on the road within a few years does and what it costs. If Obama gets his way, each car gets a $10,000 tax credit. This goes to the wealthy buyers of the cars or to the dealers if the cars are sold to the government. Disregarding state credits, infrastructure costs and other subsidies for the industry we have a cost to taxpayers of $10 billion. Given the assumption that there will be about 250 million passenger vehicles on the US roads that account for less than 50% of the nation’s oil consumption, we get a reduction in oil dependence of less than 0.2 percent. That’s $10,000,000,000 for a 0.2 percent reduction in oil usage.
It is amazing to me that those that criticize drilling for oil as being ineffective in lowering gas prices are promoting a green energy policy that blows billions of dollars to do so little for foreign oil independence. The politics at GM that drive the illogical hyping of the Chevy Volt, despite all evidence that the majority of the car-buying public does not want the car at the present price and the company loses money on every one sold, mirrors that of the Administration that hypes an energy policy that is just as illogical. It is unfortunate that the public can not rely upon the media to bring forth a fair debate on what America is actually getting for all the money it is spending on cars like the Volt. But as long as GM keeps spending the approximate $1 billion on TV ads that it did in 2011, it is unlikely that critics of anything GM will be too vocal. At least those critics that work for the networks receiving the payoff.
Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.