WSJ Jenkins: The Volt Sucks, CAFE Must Die and Obama's a Fraud

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Holman W. Jenkins Jr. is not a happy camper. The Wall Street Journal columnist begins his broadside by taking on the Hail Mary-shaped plug-in hybrid gas – electric Chevrolet Volt. Jenkins reckons it’s what the Brits call a “non-starter.” “Even as GM teeters toward bankruptcy and wheedles for billions in public aid, its forthcoming plug-in hybrid continues to absorb a big chunk of the company’s product development budget. This is a car that, by GM’s own admission, won’t make money. It’s a car that can’t possibly provide a buyer with value commensurate with the resources and labor needed to build it. It’s a car that will be unsalable without multiple handouts from government.” While Jenkins’ anti-Volt tirade isn’t especially accurate (you could even call it inaccurate), at least his rhetoric is a moving target, as he changes targets.

Next in the firing line: the feds, for enabling Motown’s labor “accommodations.”

“The Carter administration rushed in with loan guarantees to keep Chrysler out of bankruptcy. The Reagan administration imposed quotas on Japanese imports to prop up GM. Both parties colluded in the fuel-economy loophole that allowed the passenger ‘truck’ boom that kept Detroit’s head above water during the ’90s. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi now want to bail out Detroit once more, while mandating that the Big Three build “green” cars. If consumers really wanted green cars, no mandate would be necessary. Washington here is just marching Detroit deeper into an unsustainable business model, requiring ever more interventions in the future.”

Amen. So what IS the answer? Swimming against the raging torrent flowing towards Washington. Jenkins calls for less government.

“The simplest step forward would be to get rid of the “two fleet rule,” devised by Congress’s fuel-mileage managers to keep Detroit making small econoboxes in high-cost UAW factories. Dumping the rule would force the UAW to compete directly inside each company for jobs against cheaper workers abroad. Even better would be to dump CAFE altogether. If Congress really thinks consumers must be encouraged to use less gas, replace it with an intellectually honest gas tax. Mr. Obama promised to transcend the old stalemates — let him begin with the 30-year-old fraud that our fuel-economy rules represent.”

Fortunately for rants fans everywhere, Jenkins is not in the habit of holding his breath for recommendation realization. And just in case you’re an Obama supporter who doesn’t support bailout billions for Detroit, Jenkins takes his final parting shot at The One.

“He ran a brilliant campaign, but his programmatic prescriptions amounted to handwaving designed to capture the presidency rather than tell voters what really to expect. This may have been a virtue in campaigning but it becomes a handicap in governing. The public now has no idea what to expect — except miracles, reconciling all opposites, turning all hard choices into gauzy win-wins. Thanks to Detroit, his honeymoon is about to end before it begins.”

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Fallout11 Fallout11 on Nov 17, 2008

    Jenkins: Gasoline goes bad after a few months… I recently ran stored 3+ year old non-stabilized jerrycanned RUG through my 2002 Ranger (w/ancient Vulcan pushrod) without a hiccup. The computer didn't care and compensated for any octane deviance that might have been present.

  • KixStart KixStart on Nov 17, 2008

    Fuel stability isn't a problem for the Volt... take it on a trip out of town every quarter and use up the gas. Or add Sta-bil. What is a problem for the Volt is GM's inability or unwillingness to build it in volumes that make a difference in the near future, its excessive price, its compromised capability and the fact that, at all times, the car will be dragging an anchor. Sometimes the anchor is the engine and sometimes the anchor is the battery but, any way you slice it, it's dragging an anchor along. Jenkins got the gas issue wrong but he's still right about the Volt.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.