Photo Credit: Guizmot-88

Photo Credit: Guizmot-88

Well, It’s Official.  The Chevy Volt is a coveted car with a loyal following.  Consider this Chuck Burton AP report, by way of NBC News. 

You remember NBC, don’t you? The network that in 1993 rigged GM pickup gas tanks with incendiary devices the better to tell a false story about rupturing and exploding gas tanks?

In an extraordinary public apology, NBC said Tuesday night that it erred in staging a fiery test crash of a General Motors pickup truck for its ‘Dateline NBC’ news program and agreed to settle a defamation suit filed by the auto maker.

‘We deeply regret we included the inappropriate demonstration in our ‘Dateline’ report,’ said a statement read by NBC News co-anchors Jane Pauley and Stone Phillips Tuesday night. ‘We apologize to our viewers and to General Motors. We have also concluded that unscientific demonstrations should have no place in hard news stories at NBC. That’s our new policy.’

The apology, still being negotiated within five minutes of air time, was part of a settlement of a lawsuit GM filed Monday over film used in a Nov. 17 segment of ‘Dateline.’

In its apology, NBC admitted that it had used incendiary devices to ensure that a fire would erupt if gasoline leaked from the truck being hit by a test car. The 15-minute segment was addressing critics’ charges that GM’s full-size pickup trucks built between 1973 and 1987 are unsafe because their gasoline tanks are on the sides of the trucks, outside the frame.

“Unscientific demonstrations.”  Ah.  So that’s what NBC calls rigging vehicles to explode and lying to America about it.  Isn’t it nice, though, they have a new policy against unscientific demonstrations in hard news stories?  So I’m sure they’re completely trustworthy when they print this:

James Brazell of Asheville, N.C. is one of many satisfied Chevy Volt drivers. Ninety-two percent of Volt owners surveyed said they would definitely buy the Volt again.

General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car topped Consumer Reports’ annual owner-satisfaction survey for the second straight year.

Ninety-two percent of Volt owners surveyed by the influential consumer magazine said they would definitely buy the Volt again, earning the electric car the top ranking. Last year, 93 percent of respondents said they would buy the car again.

‘The Volt’s two-year reign at the top of our satisfaction survey points to the continuing trend of owners’ enthusiasm for cars that are fuel-efficient, especially as we see more and more hybrid and electric models hitting the market,’ Consumer Reports’ auto editor, Rik Paul, said in a statement.

But this is not quite what it sounds. Consider this from Consumer Report’s own article:

Among the 44 models that achieved our top owner-satisfaction rating, 10 were fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, diesels, and electric cars. Another 10 were purebred sports cars. And 13 were luxury or upscale models, with most of them delivering sporty handling, strong engine performance, or both.

What none of the articles, particularly those boosting green technologies, are telling readers is the results are based on asking Consumer Reports subscribers only whether they would buy their vehicle again.  Considering the tiny number of Volts out there in private—as opposed to fleet—hands, compared to virtually any other popular vehicle, the sample was obviously very small.  One would expect Volt owners, people who even GM admits are in the upper echelon of household income in America, to be satisfied with their choice as they have money to spare, and commonly buy the Volt as a part of a green lifestyle choice.

So, wealthy people who bought a Volt for green street cred are satisfied with the vehicle, despite its lack of flexibility, likely because they have more than enough money to also operate full-sized SUVs and other luxury cars to make up for the abilities a Volt lacks.  Good for them.

I’m being unfair to the Volt, the AP and Consumer Reports?  It’s not at all unfair to observe that drivers of green-type technology cars bought them primarily for those green attributes and would accordingly be satisfied with them.  Even Consumer Reports reported that the owners of “purebred sports cars” and “luxury or upscale models” were also fond of their cars.  Sorry if I can’t get too excited that people who are buying expensive niche vehicles tend to like them a great deal.  No envy is involved.  Good for them.  But that still doesn’t make the Volt a viable vehicle, and the government is still wasting my money—every taxpayer’s money–on them.

But At Least It’s Wasteful Government Spending…

Which brings us to Mark Tapscott at the Examiner who writes:

Big Government.com’s Seton Motley wonders if GM’s recent decision to build 500,000 plug-in EVs by 2017 is evidence that it’s time “to end the experiment.’

Motley’s question came in response to the seemingly excessively optimistic description by Hybridcars.com of October’s EV sales figures as something to cheer about.

While Hybridcars.com called the October EV sales total of just under 3,000 vehicles, or 0.65 percent ‘a best-ever performance,’ Motley noted that ‘just over 1/2 of 1 percent of anything is a paltry number. If that’s a record – more than a decade and about $6.5 billion-in-government-subsidies-just-since-2008 into the experiment – it may be time to end the experiment.

Tapscott notes that Motley is the president of Lessgovernment.org, a group that, as its name suggests, is less than thrilled about big government and its attendant waste.  Tapscott asks:

How long should taxpayers be required to subsidize the production and sale of vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf even though too few people voluntarily buy EVs or other alternatively powered vehicles to generate profits for automakers?

A Denver Post editorial by Mark J. Perry elucidates the point:

Since 2008, taxpayers have spent or provided loan guarantees of $6.5 billion for electric vehicles. That includes $2.4 billion for battery and electric drive component manufacturing, $3.1 billion in loan guarantees for electric vehicle projects, and $1 billion in tax credits for the vehicles.

The price that American taxpayers pay for commercializing electric vehicles is painfully evident in the billions spent on green projects that are driven by politics rather than performance.

Instead of letting plug-in vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, GM Volt and Ford Focus Electric compete on their own against fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars, the government has used subsidies to create an artificial market that otherwise would not exist.

But of course, government is so good at picking winners and losers.  Except as Mitt Romney said in the debates, Mr. Obama only picks the losers. 

The answer is simple: it’s not government’s business to subsidize commercial products.  People seem to forget that government has no money.  The money it so freely spends comes directly from the pockets of taxpayers.  Unless, of course, government spends more money than it takes in, in which case we end up talking about fiscal cliffs and all of that sort of unpleasantness.

Battery Powered Cars Are Great!  Unless You Don’t Have Any Batteries…

Popular Mechanics has the sad news for Fisker:

California-based Fisker Automotive has halted production of its plug-in hybrid Karma luxury sedan after battery provider A123 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. The automaker says it is suspending production until a buyer is found for the failed battery manufacturer.

The news, first reported by Bloomberg yesterday, is yet another setback to the fledgling automaker, which lost 300 European-bound Karmas during Hurricane Sandy and continues to delay production of its mass-market mid-size Atlantic sedan

‘Because we have no batteries, there’s no production right now. Inventory is starting to get a little low,’ Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz told Bloomberg. “We’d like to restart production as quickly as possible…

Yet another government-subsidized EV winner.

Despite Spontaneous Combustion and Melting Power Cords, Those Volts Are Great Cars…

Fox News (via the Detroit News) writes: 

…Chevrolet is initiating a “customer satisfaction” program to fix a computer glitch that can cause the plug-in hybrid car’s electric motor to shut down while the vehicle is in motion. Up to 4,000 2013 model year Volts may be affected by the problem.

The automaker is currently contacting owners to inform them of the issue, saying that it can occur after they use the Volt’s delayed charging feature, which allows them to program a time for the car to automatically start charging to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates.

Several owners have experienced the problem in the real world, but the automaker says steering and braking are not affected when it occurs, which apparently allowed all of them to safely bring their cars to a stop. Turning off the car and waiting 2-5 minutes before restarting it temporarily solves the problem, but owners are being asked to bring their cars to a Chevy dealer for a re-flash of the control system software.

According to Chevy, there have been no accidents or injuries and it is not being treated as a safety issue at this time. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has not yet commented on the issue.

It’s not a safety issue?  Imagine if conventionally powered sports cars or pickup trucks were doing this.  Is there any sentient being that believes the Obama Administration wouldn’t be all over the manufacturers and ordering massive safety recalls?  The NTSA hasn’t commented?  Imagine that.

I’ll leave you with Director Blue’s comment, which is elegant in its snarkiness:

I’m just trying to imagine what else can go wrong with the Volt. Maybe the seat-belts will malfunction, locking drivers into their seats while accelerating off cliffs.

Indeed.  No doubt fiscal cliffs which subsidies of vehicles like the Volt are helping to drive us inexorably toward.

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