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

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
wsj jenkins the volt sucks cafe must die and obamas a fraud

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.”

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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.

  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.
  • ToolGuy From the listing: "Oil changes every April & October (full-synth), during which I also swap out A/S (not the stock summer MPS3s) and Blizzak winter tires on steelies, rotating front/back."• While ToolGuy applauds the use of full synthetic motor oil,• ToolGuy absolutely abhors the waste inherent in changing out a perfectly good motor oil every 6 months.The Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage I run in our family fleet has a change interval of 20,000 miles. (Do I go 20,000 miles before changing it? No.) But this 2014 Focus has presumably had something like 16 oil changes in 36K miles, which works out to a 2,250 mile average change interval. Complete waste of time, money and perfectly good natural gas which could have gone to a higher and better use.Mobil 1 also says their oil miraculously expires at 1 year, and ToolGuy has questions. Is that one year in the bottle? One year in the vehicle? (Have I gone longer than a year in some of our vehicles? Yes, I have. Did I also add Lucas Oil 10131 Pure Synthetic Oil Stabilizer during that time, in case you are concerned about the additive package losing efficacy? Yes, I might have -- as far as you know.)TL;DR: I aim for annual oil changes and sometimes miss that 'deadline' by a few months; 12,000 miles between oil changes bothers me not at all, if you are using a quality synthetic which you should be anyway.
  • Carlson Fan Doesn't it take electricity to make hydrogen? Why not just charge a battery. Seems like that would be more efficient & clean not factoring in all the pollution it takes to manufacture today's batteries. But maybe fuel cells are just as bad, not sure about that. A hydrogen vehicle is nothing more than an electric car where hydrogen gas & a fuel cell are used in place of a battery.
  • Deanst A friend with a Model Y pays to park and then pays to charge because he can get a quick supercharge. He says other supercharger stations with free parking are not as fast.
  • Carlson Fan At home always for the 7 years I've owned my Volt. Never once used a public charger.At 40+ MPG, It's cheaper to just burn gas if I need to get home versus paying the ridiculous rates at a public charger.