March 6, 2012

Best Car of the Year!

Why, it's the Chevy Volt of course! It's won several prestigious awards. It's just that nobody wants to buy it... Joann Muller at Forbes, delivers the bad news. But she is painfully even-handed in her appraisal.

Critics quickly jumped on that news as evidence that the Volt is a wasteful folly and the federal government shouldn't be meddling in the auto industry. Never mind that the Volt was conceived long before GM's 2009 taxpayer-financed bankruptcy. As investors with a 32% stake in the world's largest carmaker, taxpayers ought to be pleased by GM's uncharacteristic discipline in matching its vehicle production to real demand. Instead of overproducing Volts, and then heavily discounting them to get people to buy, GM is protecting its investment.

Bursting with pride, Joann, I'm bursting with pride! But...
The Volt's hefty pricetag, $41,000, no doubt scared away some buyers. Even with a $7,500 federal tax credit, it's a lot to pay for a four-seat Chevrolet. The lease price isn't bad at all -- $350 a month, with $2,500 down -- but consumers have somehow missed that marketing pitch, and that's GM's fault. There have been other issues, too: a government investigation into post-crash test fires (much ado about nothing) and the challenge of making people understand the Volt's unique gas-and-electric technology.

You see, ThreeSourcers, you don't have to pony up 40K and wait for your tax refund -- you can lease a volt for $350 a month with $2500 down!

Those critics. What a bunch of losers, eh?

Oil and Energy Posted by John Kranz at March 6, 2012 10:55 AM

Her "painfully even-handed" sure sounds a lot like Mark Antony, coming not to praise the Volt, but to bury it. The noble Forbes has told us it is a worthy car, and it must be true, for the writers at Forbes are all honorable men.

After all, it's won several prestigious awards! Would you disparage the winner of a prestigious award? Does it not deserve the same respect that you would haved for the winners of other prestigious awards - such as Nobel Peace Prize winners Barack Obama, Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Al Gore, and the IPCC? Such as Rhodes scholars Richard Lugar, Paul Sarbanes, Kris Kristofferson, David Souter, Wesley Clark, Robert Reich, Bill Clinton, Michael Kingsley, EJ Dionne, Russ Feingold, and Rachel Madcow?

Perish the thought.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at March 6, 2012 12:00 PM

And the best thing about buying the $41,000 (base) car, [$48,000 nicely equipped] is that you'll "save a crapload of money."

Speaking 100 percent objectively now, I love the technology in the Volt. It's not even half bad looking. And the apparent fact they can make it for less than $50K is something of a marvel in itself. As true bleeding-edge tech it's a slam dunk success.

But the subsidies and the mandates are what kills it, along with the crony capitalism that stole General Motors from its secured creditors and handed it over with a pretty bow to the UAW, at further taxpayer expense no less. It is a symbol for all that is wrong with 21st century American industry and commerce, and the government that bespoils them both. For this it must suffer the vicissitudes of the market. Consumers who can afford it are also the ones most likely to recoil at what it stands for.

Posted by: johngalt at March 6, 2012 1:03 PM

Brother Keith: the twitter link I followed had me expecting a brutal takedown. Ms. Muller has more good things to say about the Volt than I am used to.

Brother jg: Much technically to like about the Volt, but -- and I'll admit to jaundice -- they missed on the promise of an all-electric drivetrain (likely a good idea, but how do you give twice the Federal Jack for it than a plug-in hybrid?) They missed as well on the date and the price point. Now they miss on sales.

If I wasn't a coerced 32% equity-stakeholder, I would not care, but if I may paraphrase Donne: "Everie abscense of Volt sales affekts me, for I am part of mankinde!"

A good and fair essay on the Volt -- with a nod to your points -- can be found here.

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.

Posted by: jk at March 6, 2012 2:24 PM | What do you think? [3]