The Washington Post Turns Against The Volt, And Bites It

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
the washington post turns against the volt and bites it

Five years ago, Chris Matthews said on MSNBC: “Well, The Washington Post is not the liberal newspaper it was.” Today, the Post finally will be condemned as part of the massive right wing conspiracy. In a brutal op-ed, signed by the full WaPo Editorial Board, the paper kills and buries the Volt. Basically, says the WaPo, we have been fooled:

The Energy Department study assumed that General Motors would produce 120,000 plug-in hybrid Volts in 2012. GM never came close to that and recently suspended Volt production at its Hamtramck, Mich., plant, scene of a presidential photo-op. So far, GM has sold a little more than 21,000 Volts, even with the help of a $7,500 tax credit, recent dealer discounting and U.S. government purchases. When you factor in the $1.2billion cost of developing the Volt, GM loses tens of thousands of dollars on each model.”

The WaPo fully subscribes to the story that the Volt is a giant money sink. It also has read the excuses that say that the car is not supposed to make money, that it is a rolling science lab on which greater successes will be built. Says the Post:

“Some such losses are normal in the early phases of a product’s life cycle. Perhaps the knowledge and technological advances GM has reaped from developing the Volt will help the company over the long term. But this is cold comfort for the taxpayers who still own more than a quarter of the firm.

The Energy Department predicted that Nissan, recipient of a $1.5 billion government-guaranteed loan, would build 25,000 of its all-electric Leaf this year; that car has sold only 14,000 units in the United States.

As these companies flail, they are taking the much-ballyhooed U.S. advanced-battery industry down with them. A Chinese company had to buy out distressed A123, to which the Energy Department has committed $263 million in production aid and research money. Ener1, which ran through $55 million of a $118 million federal grant before going bankrupt, sold out to a Russian tycoon.”

If we still believe in the electric car, our savior, then we have been fooled, says the Post. It also says by whom:

“No matter how you slice it, the American taxpayer has gotten precious little for the administration’s investment in battery-powered vehicles, in terms of permanent jobs or lower carbon dioxide emissions. There is no market, or not much of one, for vehicles that are less convenient and cost thousands of dollars more than similar-sized gas-powered alternatives — but do not save enough fuel to compensate. The basic theory of the Obama push for electric vehicles — if you build them, customers will come — was a myth. And an expensive one, at that.”

A year ago, the Washington Post wrote:

“The Volt changes everything – the car itself, the way we think about and use automobiles, and attitudes about energy conservation and fuel alternatives.”

Today, the Volt changed minds again. Not in a good way.

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5 of 114 comments
  • 50merc 50merc on Sep 14, 2012

    Thank you, Bertel, for a good article. Don't let the ideologues get you down. The WaPo piece is newsworthy because that newspaper has been one of Obama's best journalistic pals, and also because D.C., having a vested interest in interjecting government into everything, doesn't want to hear the Volt is less than perfect. Personally, I wonder if any GM director ever said: "When the Mustang came out it made tons of money for Ford. So we rushed a low-cost clone, the Camaro, into production and also made tons of money. Couldn't we license technology from Toyota and Ford, turn the Equinox into a hybrid like the Escape, and actually start making a profit on a car?" No, I guess not. It would have hurt Lutz's ego.

    • See 2 previous
    • Luke42 Luke42 on Sep 14, 2012

      @mike978: you're making the same mistake that GM made when they thought that the hybrid-image would sell the 33mpg Malibu hybrid and that Tahoe monstrosity. Hybrid owners typically do their homework, so the numbers are part.of the image. If the car ain't got the numbers, it ain't got the image.

  • PRND21 PRND21 on Sep 16, 2012

    Interesting, as ex GM CEO Rick Wagoner is on the WaPo Board.

  • Cprescott Yawn.
  • 28-Cars-Later Wrangler people are crazy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Transition" to layoffs, this guy is the Bob(s) from Office Space.
  • Vap65689119 As a release engineer I also worked in quality, if they are serious they should look at Toyotas business model which has their suppliers as genuine partners, thats how you get a quality product
  • Mike-NB2 I seem to have landed in an alternate universe. $12,000 for a Jeep that's going on a quarter-century old and with an automatic transmission? Wow.