Pulling the Plug on the Chevy Volt

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The recent decision by General Motors to temporarily suspend production of the battery-powered Chevy Volt is just the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of a government-backed vehicle plagued by consumer disinterest, safety concerns, taxpayer abuse, and crony capitalism.

GM cited anemic sales figures as the basis for its decision to halt production of the Chevy Volt, a “range-extended” electric car that can go 35 miles on a fully charged lithium-ion battery before a small gasoline engine generates power for further driving when the battery runs low.

GM had planned to produce 60,000 Chevy Volts in 2012 — including 45,000 for the US market — but reportedly only sold 676 Volts in January and1,023 in February, leaving the company with an inventory stock of 3,596 vehicles, enough to last through the spring without building another unit.

As such, GM announced that beginning March 19 it will temporarily lay off 1,300 workers for five weeks so that the car company can “maintain proper inventory and make sure that we continue to meet market demand.” To achieve that goal, GM has decided to use the intervening weeks in production delay to launch a new national ad campaign to boost the Volt’s consumer appeal.

However, it remains to be seen how effective that ad campaign will be given that market demand for the Volt has been tepid at best since GM introduced the vehicle into the US market in January 2011 as its answer to Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid and Nissan’s all-electric Leaf.

Yet, despite spending billions of taxpayer dollars developing, promoting and subsidizing the Chevy Volt — GM sold only about 7,700 Volts in 2011 after targeting sales of 10,000 vehicles.

For its part, GM has blamed the Volt’s lackluster sales on negative publicity surrounding the car being the subject of an investigation in 2011 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over fires occurring in Volts during crash testing, including one vehicle that caught fire and three others whose battery packs sparked or caught fire.

It should be noted that the federal government gave a $105 million grant to GM to help it produce those battery packs as well as a $151 million grant to LG Chem to produce the Volt’s battery cells.

While federal officials eventually cleared the Volt of any safety risk, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson testified at a congressional hearing in January 2012 that the Volt had become “a political punching bag,” and as a result, had suffered “collateral damage.”

Of course, to be fair, consumer decisions about the Volt have been driven as much by price as by fears that their car may spontaneously burst into flames.

For example, while the Chevy Volt retails at around $40,000 before a government tax credit of $7,500 is applied, it still sells several thousands dollars higher than its hybrid and all-electric competitors. As one auto industry analyst said of the Volt’s sticker price, “You’re in BMW 3-series territory. For a Chevy customer, this is really new territory.”

Another economist, noting the $16,700 price for a fuel-efficient, gas-powered Chevy Cruze Eco, said, “The price premium on the Volt just doesn’t make economic sense for the average consumer when there are so many fuel-efficient gasoline-powered cars available.”

The “price premium” certainly doesn’t make economic sense for taxpayers as government “investment” in the Volt has, according to The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, made each Volt cost $250,000 for every one that’s being sold.

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  • http://jc.does-it.net Geneww

    Now, if our present administrations and comrades have all government agencies and endentured corporations buy this "people's car" then the demand [hence price in the remaining free market] for finer hybrids will decrease and create a better option for capitlalists to buy.

    • Snow White

      Face it. The chevy Volt is Obama's Edsel.

  • davarino

    What about the electricity it takes to charge the Volt? That comes from power plants that create pollution and is very inefficient. You have the inefficiency of burning the coal, which O is trying to kill by taxing to death and thinks he can replace with wind and solar and gerbils. Then there is the transmission loss from the power plant to the charging station.

    Can you really see the CEO of GE driving one of these golf carts? And can you imagine the hypocrite O driving in one of these? A Volt would not befit his status, his grandure, his awsomeness.

    • warpmine

      How about an exploding suv for him and the Mrs? May as well go out in style, right. Tax payer money well spent !

    • tom

      Davarino you are mistaken about the electricity to charge the volt. Burning of coal in power plants is way more efficient than the burning of gasoline locally in a cars engine, something like 5 times as efficient depending on what car you are driving.

  • theleastthreat

    Another reason is that in California, among other states, brown-outs do occur and charging an EV may be interrupted. However, I saw an TV headline that GM and Chyrsler were both working in natural gas powered pick-ups. Natural gas is cheap now and we get that fuel from here, not over there. The range of CNGVs is similar to gasoline engines and unlike the Volt needs only one fuel source. They may not have the acceleration of gas engines, but they run cleaner. The only drawback now is the lack of stations carrying CNG. Finally, there may never be a 300 mile battery for the EV. We may soon find that we can only cram so much charge in a given amount of space. So, all things considered, I believe the EV is not long for this world.

    • Rifleman

      I think a bunch of pressurized NG cylinders on the roads with the idiots I have to dodge every day to get to work, is a real bad idea. The tanks on a bus or heavy truck are better and more easily protected, but in light trucks, passenger vehicles, and commuter vehicles they can't be protected enough.

      • theleastthreat

        From what I've read, gasoline is a more explosive fuel than CNG. I don't remember my references for that but that's what I recall about it. Oh well, somebody other than President Obama will figure it all out. I too dodge idiots on the road but they seem to seek me out. How do they know where I am?

        • Rifleman

          Gasoline has to vaporize before it becomes explosive, and it's not pressurized, like CNG is. CNG vehicles are also relatively easy to turn into an IED.

          Lol, those idiots have cell phones, and when one of them sees us, he or she calls all their idiot friends. That’s my theory, anyway. I was tempted to mount a video camera in my car, because I wouldn’t believe some of the crazy things I’ve seen myself in Atlanta traffic, without seeing it on tape. I’ve gotten pretty good at narrating what must be going on in their beady little heads.

          • theleastthreat

            Yeah, I can guess what you mean. I had to drive through Atlanta once. They're in Pensacola too, though maybe not in the same numbers. Once, looking through my rearview mirror, I witnessed a car rolling over on the interstate bridge right behind me. Let me tell you, NASCAR has less spectacular crashes.

            Anyway, I do remember seeing a demonstration on some news show years ago in which a safety expert fired a high powered bullet through a CNG tank and another through a car gas tank and the CNG tank burned very little but the gasoline tank went off like a grenade. If this is the way it always happens, I really couldn't say.

            BTW, I've actually considered wearing a motorcycle helmet in my car.

  • Barbara

    Has everyone forgot about the Bloom Power ? I know they want you to disregard this kind of power. Cheep,clean runs on white beach sand and a special paint to cover the battery For your home soon with this small box of power will go 20 + years, will run your car maybe the same time limit more or less. Run your business and in Calif. now are running stores and places of business and say, they are working fine the cost is wonderful. This is really Green stuff. Check it out on the web, a few years ago it was on 60 minutes. www. Bloom Energy.com GREAT . I think you can buy it now for your home.

  • jacob

    Does anybody remember that GM's unofficial motto years ago was that what was good for General Motors,
    was good for thew United States ????

    Well, GM right in more than one way…

    It ran it into the ground and, according to OBAMA, GWB did the same with the USA…..
    Why doesn't he make a "mea culpa" confessing that when McCain proposed a legislation to curb the
    ECONOMIC DEBACLE, the first opponent was the then Senator OBAMA ????

  • Stan Lee

    Think about it, folks! For a net $32,500, you can own a Volt. Is that before or after the freight charge is applied?
    I was burned by GM many years ago, when I purchased an Olds diesel-powered car, It was later revealed that GM used the 350 cu.in. gasoline-powered block and tried to convert same to diesel, which needs a much higher compression type of engine than gasoline. After the first engine self-destructed in about 7000 miles, GM replaced it with another 350 cu.in. diesel. I was apprehensive, therefore I tried to trade the car on a different make. No one would trade for it, it was worth "0" on the market. I became a Ford owner after losing out big-time on the Olds diesel. Have owned 30 Fords (2 car family) since then. GM….no thanks!

    • Gary4

      Right on Stan. I owned one back in 82. Those things broke the crankshaft as the compression rate is around 20:1 on a diesel. The blocks and internal components were only designed for 8.5:1 ratios. Bad idea. I too was a loyal GM customer aside from that debacle until the Government Motors swindle.

    • kim

      Yeah the last GM I had was a Lumina and it started to malfunction and I chased computer code after computer code and spent a good chunk before I gave up and sold ot for scrap. After I started to get really fatigued over the whole thing, I started reading on the web where I was no where near alone…it was like GM engineered these cars to generate problems so they could make a fortune off selling parts. You're right, GM…no thanks!!

  • Kevin

    I'm so tired of the "I told you so" crowd. They glow with insidious comments when given the opportunity to tear down any edifice near them. The Chevy Volt is an excellent vehicle. It is not perfect, but neither are vehicles from Toyota, Ford or any other car manufacturer. My wife and I own one and it does EXACTLY what GM said it would: 35 miles on a charge, comfortable and responsive on the road . And when they found a problem, GM stepped up to the plate and PROACTIVELY fixed it. Let's ask the mighty Toyota how they addressed their recent problems. Only after the light was shown on them did they fess up. The only fault I see is the price. I am sure GM is under a great deal of pressure to recoup investment costs as quickly as possible to keep the nay-sayer wolves at bay. Again, let's ask Toyota how they are doing on the Prius. After all these years on the market they still have not turned a profit on this car – but no one is complaining of unfair competition. Folks, what's done is done. GM made MANY mistakes in the past (with UAW and government regulatory assistance), many people lost money, lives were ruined, the company lost it's prestige and WE bailed them out. Are WE going to continually pick the scab on this wound? Don't you think it's time to let the past heal and support our home corporations. It is no longer a matter of playing the blame game. As in any good marriage, whether between people, government entities or corporations ONE must be able to forgive and move on. The Volt is a very unique and well crafted automobile. I wish everyone could afford one. Sorry it can't be cheap, but neither were the first computers, flat screen tv's or even our vaunted iPhones and iPods.

    • reader

      Kevin, you're missing the point entirely. You can buy red clay in Georgia by truckloads if that's what makes you happy, but neither of us want to subsidize your whims just because it coincides with the whims of the 'great leader.' Just leave us alone, we know what's good for us, and we'll find it on the market, thank you very much.

      • kim

        well said!!!

    • Gary4

      I smell a troll!!

    • davarino

      Ya and the flat screen TV, and first computer were not subsidized with my tax dollars and investors werent ripped off while paying off the union cronnies so they'll vote for comrade O again. Thanks for your flawed logic

    • Mark

      Don't clutter the bubble world with facts…. This is politics and face it, the volt is now a stand in for the current governments energy plans. What I find interesting is the the volt bashing started back with Rush L doing his usual hit job, just after big O did his speech about cutting the $4 billion a year in oil company giveaways…
      Since then a lot of fake facts have been floated around about the volt, including several repeated in this piece as if it is fact.. I wonder if this author even realizes his errors?

      • warpmine

        It's not our fault that both you and Kevin have CRD, the cars are junk for the 140K investment that the government had to invest to make it all happen. It's your choice whether or not to assist Obama in his quest to make the USA a command and control economy, by buying anything GM, even a truck, you're dvocating governbment control of your lives. Happy May Day!

    • Clara


  • Tanstaafl

    You could probably build your own electric car for the price of the tax rebate.

  • Ghostwriter

    I doubt that the Chevy Volt would do well on either the British or American versions of "Top Gear."

  • "gunner"

    anybody remember disney's "grandma duck" and her "baker electric"? it was a real car once upon a time, but suffered the same shortcomings as its latter day reincarnations. low speed, expensive battery replacement costs and short operating range. electric vehicle enthusiasts blame its lack of success on the "evil gasoline lobby", but it was doomed by its own inherent limitations, as will the "volt" now. success is not created by government decree and subsidy when there is no real market for a product.

    • kim

      you are exactly right!!!! There is very little to no market for an overpriced compact that doesnt really do gas or electric very well.

  • UCSPanther

    Lithium batteries offer excellent power vs. weight output, but they are volatile. In order for them to be charged or discharged safely, they require special regulator circuitry to keep them from overheating and blowing.

  • pierce

    Is this President stupid, or is he dumber than a box of rocks. Wait, may be we are for having elected him.

  • kickincanada

    I’ve owned a Volt since Sept 2012 and it’s a pretty cool car. I'm not an environmentalist (previous ride was a Ford Expedition) but it's not as expensive as one would think. Ontario gov gives you $8500 and you will save about $2000 a year in gas and maintenance (oil changes once every 2 years, brakes last 100K minimum). So over 5 years thats 18.5K towards the purchase. So about $30K for a really advanced car is actually in line with the average cost of a new car these days.

    Its range is pretty good – 75Kms in the spring/summer/fall on battery – more if you use gas. If you charge at work or in between drives you can actually go 100-200kms per day on electric – basically you get to give the oil companies the middle finger when you drive by the gas station. Weird to spend more on car washes than gas. I routinely buy $2 gas just to get the discount on the car wash at PetroCanada. And my hydro bill (which in Ontario is not really sourced from coal at all) has gone up about $45 a month (including all those surcharges). I also love the fact I’m using a domestic source of fuel, not relying on sources of energy produced by hostile regimes, and buying a car made in North America!

    One more thing – the battery will likely outlast the car. The battery and all electrical components of Volt, Leaf, etc are warrantied for 8 years / 160,000kms. In California it is for 10 years. The car will fall apart before the battery goes. And even if the battery failed outside of warranty period, for the Volt it is $2400 to replace which is not bad. Me at that point 8+years out I would simply run my barely used ICE and be satisfied with the 35-40mpg on ICE only as I would have made my money back years ago.

    Bottom line is the Volt is a great fun car with great service and support from GM. People really need to get out and test drive one. And it looks great to.

  • Dave

    Why all the bashing? GM, with or without help, is trying to lessen this country's DEPENDENCE on FORIEGN oil. When gasoline reaches $6.00 a gallon or more, are you going to complain that there are no electric alternatives? Or are all you bashers going to suck it up and fill your tanks for $100.00? Why aren't there any alternatives? I'm guessing it's easier to condemn (monday morning quarterback) then actually try and solve these problems. Does anyone believe oil prices are going to come down?

    • kim

      for most of us, it still comes down to money and what we can afford. Volt is too expensive and even if we hit 6 bucks a gallon, its still gonna cost less to drive a fuel efficent gas car that is either paid for or far less expensive. I have an old Camry that is paid for – cost me for gas, insurance and oil changes…I'm way ahead from an economical standpoint. The volt is a tree hugger car. Its just no practical for most. Until GM or any other car company puts a lot of these types of cars on the road, there really arent any winners.

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  • kim

    GM is in bed with the oil companies and the little gas engine is the leash. 35 miles on a charge? Taxpayers held hostage to pay for it? I can't believe after all the money, r&d etc… that is the best they could do. Too pricey and too small for what you get. heck, I read about an electric wheelchair that uses one little battery and goes 25 miles on a charge…Volt 35? It's laughable. GM has or at least once had the resources to build the best cars in the world and they did not. Shame on them. Now, if they screw up, they can just hold us taxpayers hostage for more money and they can keep the big salaries, Gulfstream Jets and that golden parachute lifestyles. They need to be allowed to go bankrupt just like anyone else in a free market economy. Only the strong survive.

  • kim

    If you're gonna buy a domestic car..for Godness sakes – buy a FORD…their cars are better and they don't take taxpayer bailout money. The new Focus Electric looks way better than the Volt and you can bet it will be a better car. Unfortunately, the Japanese will probably dominate the EV category.

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