After reading yet one more screed yesterday against President Obama, “Government Motors,” and the Chevrolet Volt – replete with out-of-context snippets to support a preconceived premise demonizing the subjects at hand – I wish to make a proposal.
Can we just move on from pasting the image of the Chevy Volt to the center of the rhetorical dartboard with Obama’s picture also pinned up behind it?
I was prompted to this notion after interviewing two other writers yesterday whose sentences were grabbed to make points they actually disagree with. Also my own name and that of HybridCars.com which I run were culled into the verbal whirlwind whipped up by a political blogger bent on proving “the very ugly truth” about the sitting president.
Using the Volt to make an inductive leap against the allegedly failed bailout, she cited my June news brief, “Volt Records Second-Best Sales Month While Leaf Still Looks Withered.” My piece was written, she said, “with all of the jubilation one could expect from someone whose job is to push the sales of ‘auto alternatives for the 21st century.’”
Hey, can you leave me out of your drama-laden surface analysis please? Read the straightforward report again if you think it sounds like jubilation. My job is actually to be a journalist who covers this industry. Please focus your displeasure with Obama appropriately, and leave out harmless bystanders. Thanks!
It’s actually pretty funny to be called out like this on one level, but sadly this tendency to mis-characterize Volt facts to paint “ugly” pictures about Obama – while so 2011 – is recurring as we draw closer to November.
So watch out if you even think of getting in the way by saying anything positive about the Volt.
But since my job is to report facts, I’ll take a chance anyway, and will even concede critics are correct: The Volt has certainly benefited from political favor…
From both parties!
Take for example the $7,500 federal tax subsidies for plug-in cars initiated by President George W. Bush about whom Fox News ran a syndicated opinion piece last year saying Bush is the “Father of the Modern Electric Car.”
Whether that’s true, what’s certain is GM dreamed up the Volt well before Obama was in office and the auto industry bailouts he carried through.
In January 2006, after viewing the Tesla Roadster at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Lutz inspired also by GM engineer Jon Lauckner led a meeting of GM brass and engineers centered around the question, “Tesla can do this, and we can’t?” The gathering ended with a mandate to develop a plug-in electric car that would debut at the 2007 Detroit show. It would be a “unique and profound concept vehicle that delivered eye-popping reduction in petroleum consumption.”
One year later, the Volt Concept was the star of the 2007 show and has garnered more press than any new vehicle in GM’s hundred-plus year history.
But the production Volt has since become a gleam in Obama’s eye too, even as in 2009 he approved the bailouts begun under TARP by Bush, and Obama also envisioned an unlikely goal of one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
Alas, some of his dream was based on early sales projections by GM, but GM did not specifically validate Obama’s million EV goal. And since the end of 2011, GM has shied away from making definitive sales projections.
Unfortunately, the Volt has since been given Obama Poster Boy status from some folks with an axe to grind even though it has benefited from two parties.
How sad that this car has been so misrepresented, given it has been called one of the most innovative projects to come out of American industry, and is even being exported from Detroit and selling out in Europe as the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera and Chevy Volt.
If Americans could envision and create momentum for what is at stake they might love it even more than a new iPad. The Volt threatens to embark on a road away from oil dependence, not to mention pollution reduction and “national security,” as Bush argued, and “energy security” as is more often said these days.
Yes, like it or not, we have inherited this experiment called the Volt, which is leading a tiny segment of the North American market known as plug-in electric vehicles. Obama loves them, but so did Bush. The segment is growing at a triple digit rate, but true enough – more needs to be proved, technology needs to mature, manufacturing economies of scale would sure help, and accurate consumer information with less issue-obscuring chatter needs to be disseminated, among other goals.
Nonetheless, the electrified vehicle experiment is playing out, and while not taking the world by storm, the Volt is cultivating fans while prompting varying efforts to copy it here and in Europe and China.
Its technology was intended to leapfrog the Toyota Prius and could be a homegrown solution in the U.S. where what it promises is so needed considering we consume gads more oil than we produce.
Here’s a thought I’ve heard some conservatives who like the Volt repeat:
“You will never see a tanker arrive from the Middle East loaded with electricity.”
Energy security is a solid argument given the Volt goes 25-50 miles on domestically produced electricity. Every dollar not spent on foreign oil is (usually) a dollar not spent bolstering regimes which are hostile to the U.S. and its interests around the world. One has to consider the ultimate cost of importing so much of our energy. Fighting wars is a messy, expensive and tragic business.
But if you disagree, you have that right. Freedom of speech is the First Amendment for a reason; it is part of what has made this country great, and I’m all for freedoms responsibly enjoyed. The problem I have is with fuzzy logic meant to lure people to fallacious conclusions that the Volt is complicit in millions or even billions in misappropriated taxpayer dollars.
The actual cost of the Volt was around $1 billion. Auto industry history is littered with examples of blown money on this scale that went nowhere.
More importantly, the Volt does not equal the bailout. They are loosely related but ultimately quite separate issues. The Volt is but one car GM is marketing that involves risk and sales are picking up though by no means to mainstream levels. It’s also paying back in other ways and its intangible value to GM a “halo” car is inestimable, as – now former GM Vice Chairman – Bob Lutz recently said.
“The Chevy Volt single-handedly reversed GM’s declining reputation for innovation and technological excellence,” Lutz said.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they keep the Corvette (halo car) around too – which the Volt recently surpassed in sales. GM is now spending plenty to redesign it into the C7 enthusiasts are frothing over, and the critics for some reason do not object to.
So, do you want some more facts?
Like it or not, the Volt is selling better than ever. True, the Volt has not paid for itself yet in showroom sales. So what? That happened for years with the Prius which now 12 years later is being considered its own separate sub-brand and was the third-highest global selling nameplate last quarter.
Want some more random facts?
How about this: Even Bush Sr. purchased a Volt recently for his son, Neil.
Another one is Fox News gave fair time in March this year to conservative media mogul Lee Spieckerman, who asked certain pundits to back off the rhetoric against the Volt, citing its value for energy security.
Bottom line is the Volt is a solution. Is it an idea whose time has not yet come? Or is it ready now?
A laundry list of accolades and Consumer Reports documenting it as number one in owner satisfaction with a 93-percent approval rating is a pretty good indicator, but if you disagree that’s fine.
Some are still on the fence as it’s new technology. Some don’t fully understand it, others don’t buy the “first” of any new technology on principle, or are otherwise holding back in wait-and-see mode. And at around $40,000-plus, it costs $11,000 more than the average new car – but it’s so inexpensive to operate, based on 15,000 miles per year driving, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance showed it rapidly closes the price differential from cars costing much less.
There are many other reasons why the Volt is considered viable now, and it probably would be best if people could just back off and let it be.
You can also take it from Edward Niedermeyer whose New York Times article was taken out of context in the “ugly truth” piece, who sent me this excerpt today from his latest Volt article from the Truth About Cars which he helps run:
The basic problem with the Volt isn’t that it’s a bad car that nobody could ever want; it is, in fact, quite an engineering achievement and a rather impressive drive. And if GM had said all along that it would serve as an “anti-Corvette,” selling in low volumes at a high price, nobody could now accuse it of failure. Instead, GM fueled totally unrealistic expectations for Volt, equating it with a symbol of its rebirth even before collapsing into bailout. The Obama administration simply took GM’s hype at face value, and saw it as a way to protect against the (flawed) environmentalist argument that GM deserved to die because of “SUV addiction” alone. And between corporate sales/image hype and political hype, the Volt’s expectations were driven to ever more unrealistic heights, from which they are now tumbling… and as a result, the Volt has become the most politicized car since the Corvair. But at this point, the real waste would be if GM did cave to the Volt’s political critics instead of continuing to develop what is a promising, if not yet fully mature, technology.
Or take it from Lyle Dennis, a forward-thinking neurologist who founded GM-Volt.com which I took over writing for last year, and whose words from a pro-Volt article he wrote in 2010 were misused this week in the aforementioned anti-Volt piece. He has spent years and his own money supporting the Volt for what it can do for this country, and even now is running InsideEVs, and sees the need for what electrification can do:
The Volt is pure and simple a brilliantly designed and executed vehicle that has so far allowed 65 million out of 100 million miles to be driven on electricity collectively across its fleet. The car was designed by Bob Lutz and Jon Lauckner as a clever way to bring electric driving to the masses by eliminating range anxiety. The fact that GM had to be bailed out is unfortunate but irrelevant. New technology always costs more in the beginning and prices come down with economies of scale. This will prove true for electric cars. Blogs about Volt conspiracy theories and links to Obama politics are sad, tired, and at this point quite boring.
And by the way, that makes three managing editors whose work was grabbed and distorted by a freelance writer who glommed together what passes for political news.
On behalf of Internet media, my apologies. We do not all work that way; some of us yet try to uphold standards, and I still don’t expect you to only take my word for it about the Volt.
As I consistently write, it is a qualified decision to buy – or even approve of the Volt. Talk to anyone else you trust who actually knows about it first hand if you want, then decide for yourself what you think about it.