There’s more bad news in the continuing saga of the Chevy Volt. The Associated Press is reporting today that General Motors will recall 8,000 Volts in order to make modifications to keep them safe during crashes, all on the eve of the North American International Auto Show kicking off in the Motor City next week. (Bear in mind that only about 8,000 Volts were sold last year.)
Guess who’s headed to the auto show, likely to bask in the glory of the industry they claim to have saved? The Obama Administration, of course, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. The trouble is, all that glitters is not gold when it comes to the Administration’s efforts on behalf of the auto industry, and their push for electric vehicles is a case in point.
Take the Volt. (Well, OK, if you took one, you’d be in the minority.) Recall aside, GM’s highly touted electric vehicle has been a total flop with consumers despite a $7,500 taxpayer-funded tax credit intended to soften the blow of its $39,145+ sticker price. Last year, only 7,671 Volts were sold, falling well short of the paltry 10,000 that GM expected to sell.
Keep in mind that the Volt was supposed to be one of the leaders in the greening of the auto industry. Secretary Chu explained, “Diversifying our transportation fleet with hybrids, electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel vehicles is a critical element in President Obama’s long-term plan to break our dependence on foreign oil and invest in America’s growing clean energy economy.” And President Obama predicted that electric cars would help create thousands of new jobs with surging demand for the vehicles. Unfortunately, they haven’t caught on like wildfire with American consumers (though the Volt literally has been catching on fire). And that’s going to wind up costing taxpayers real dough.
The Washington Post reported in early December that the Obama Administration “poured roughly $5 billion in taxpayer funds into the electric-car industry, offering incentives to manufacturers, their suppliers and even car buyers who might want to go green.” And that investment didn’t pay off. According to the Post, several companies that received hundreds of millions in federal grants have gone bankrupt, largely because the President’s call for 1 million alternative energy vehicles by 2015 has fallen woefully short. Without demand, those companies can’t keep their doors open.
“But wait a minute! The American auto industry is going strong,” you say. Yes, sales are up, and that’s great news, but not in electric vehicles as the President predicted. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) reports that it’s gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles that are leading the increased sales volume, not electric cars. From the NADA: “The SUV segment had the largest volume increase with an increase of 24.6% on volume 998,000 units (led by new Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee).”
Will the President’s surrogates tout those politically incorrect purchases when they head to Detroit next week, or will their photo op on the floor of Cobo Hall convention center be in front of the President’s favored alternative energy vehicles? We’ll find out soon enough. But if they want to shake hands and mingle with the crowds, they’ll probably find more luck hanging out around the pickup trucks and the SUVs, not around the Chevy Volt.