In addition to being a representative from Pennsylvania, Republican Mike Kelly is also a Chevrolet dealer whose family has sold Chevys since 1953. But in recent hearings on government fuel economy ratings, he laid into his brand’s green halo car, the Chevy Volt with surprising zeal. Or, not-so-surprising, when you realize that he decided to run for congress in the wake of the bailout-era dealer cull.
I’m a Chevrolet dealer… we have a Chevy Volt on the lot, it’s been there now for four weeks. We’ve had one person come in to look at it, just to see what it actually looks like… Here’s a car that costs $45,763. I can stock that car for probably a year and then have to sell it at some ridiculous price. By the way, I just received some additional information from Chevrolet: in addition to the $7,500 [federal] tax credit, Pennsylvania is going to throw another $3,500 to anybody foolish enough to buy one of these cars, somehow giving them $11,000 of taxpayer money to buy this Volt.
When you look at this, it makes absolutely no sense. I can stock a Chevy Cruze, which is about a $17,500 car and turns every 30 to 40 days out of inventory… or I can have a Volt, which never turns and creates nothing for me on the lot except interest costs… So a lot of these things that we’re seeing going on have a tremendous economic impact on people who are being asked to stock them and sell them. There is no market for this car. I do have some friends who have sold them, and they’re mostly to people who have an academic interest in it, or municipalities who are asking to buy these cars.
With dealers like that, who needs competitors? Seriously, Kelly even says he fired the guy who ordered a Volt for his dealership… which he then counts against the Volt’s job creation record. Hit the jump for the rest of his quote.
I can tell you… as far as job creation, the guy who ordered that Volt for my store is no longer in that job. So it actually worked against him. I was told that the reason that car is on our lot is that General Motors told him he had to stock it. I said “let me understand. I told you that under no circumstances were you to order a Volt,” and he said “yeah.” “So, why did you order it?” “Because General Motors told me.” “Is this the same General Motors that tried to take my Cadillac franchise from me? These are the guys you’re listening to, but the guy who signs your paycheck doesn’t have as much influence as the guys who tried to take away the franchise?”
So clearly Kelly has his reasons for disliking his business partners at GM, but bashing a car that Chevy managers insist is a brand-building halo is still surprising. In any case, this somewhat rambling but fascinating critique eventually led to question “do you see any market for this car at all?” directed at Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl… who first took the opportunity to defend the Volt.
Well, there’s a little bit of good news. First, you mentioned that it did create some traffic for you, albeit one person. But that is something the car companies tout, that these vehicles do attract some interest, some traffic, not necessarily buyers. And let me also say, the Volt is actually a very nice vehicle. We actually bought one ourselves, it’s in the long-term fleet… people actually enjoy it.
But then came the bad news.
The problem that I think you’ve outlined is really twofold. One of them is that there are all sorts of inducements for people to be buying these vehicles… and yet when you look at whose been buying these vehicles, and there are people buying them, they are at the very high end of the demographic scale… Right now we’re seeing people who would have bought that vehicles anyway, without a tax credit, getting the tax credit at the expense of other taxpayers, and you have to wonder about the wisdom of that.
The second part of the Anwyl’s critique would have to wait, because after getting in one last knock at the Volt, Kelly was out of time. Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA) was next in line, and she jumped on Kelly’s Volt-bashing, telling him
First of all, to Mr Kelly, send that Volt to California! It doesn’t have to stay on your lot, because there is a waiting list in my district, at my Chevrolet dealership, of six months to get a Chevy Volt.
To which Kelly replied,
Give me the name of the dealer, and I’ll send it out there right away. If he’ll pick up the transportation cost, I’d love to do that.
The name was exchanged, and jokes were made about bipartisanship and “working together.” Then the partisan back-and-forth continued. You gotta love Congress.