The very expensive death of the Chevy Volt


I’ve been a student of the Chevy Volt electric-car debacle since the first time I took a stab at figuring out the actual per-unit cost of each car, with the subsidies figured in.  The thing launched with a sticker price of $41,000, but direct state and federal subsidies – i.e. taxpaying chumps forced at gunpoint to pay for part of your shiny new electric car – could take it down to $33,500 or less.  But if you figured in all the subsidies those taxpayer chumps were forced to give manufacturers, they really cost at least $81,000 apiece.  You paid $33k or so, while people who will never drive a Volt, and maybe never buy a Chevy, covered the rest.

Later Voltologists suggested I was being far too generous to this boondoggle, because the subsidies indirectly drawn into production of the vehicle and its battery were far larger than the direct nuts-and-bolts subsidies I was counting.  It has been suggested the real unit cost was closer to $200,000 per car.

The car itself went on to have all sorts of problems, but I was specifically concerned with the financial end of the deal.  I have no intrinsic problem with electric cars or their happy owners.  If you want to drive a Volt, a Tesla, etc. then knock yourself out, and happy motoring.  But don’t force me to pay for it.  

It could be said that nearly everything has a little subsidy pixie dust baked into its cost.  Fair enough, and a situation I dislike, because I’m a great believer in freedom of choice, and you’re not freely choosing to buy something if you don’t really know what it costs.  But in the case of these greenmobiles, and especially the Volt, the roar of the subsidy static was deafening.  It’s comical to talk about economic liberty when other people pay for better than half of your car.

A few of the early responses to my old 2009 “Value of a Volt” column cited GM’s predictions that unit sales would pick up over the years – would, in fact, skyrocket – and that would gradually drain away the amount of compulsory subsidies cooked into each unit.  Much of that immense cost occurred during design and initial production.  The fixed costs to the taxpayers would eventually be recouped through volume (and, of course, people would be living in accordance with green dogma, which was the nominal objective all along.)

Well, here we are in 2014, and it can be decisively stated that skyrocketing Volt sales are not in the cards.  In fact, Detroit News reports that the European version of the Vault is being scrapped completely.  As for domestic sales…

Volt sales have also struggled and never met GM’s initial forecasts for sales growth.

Volt sales fell 34 percent in June in the United States to 1,777 and are down 12.6 percent this year to 8,615. GM cut prices of its plug-in hybrid Volt last year. It’s also offering hefty incentives for its slow-selling plug-in Cadillac ELR, which has sold just 390 vehicles in the first half of the year.

Last September, then GM CEO Dan Akerson told The Detroit News the automaker would take on upstart EV automaker Tesla Motors. Akerson said the Detroit automaker plans to confront Tesla via its Cadillac brand.

“If you want to compete head-to-head with Tesla, and we ultimately will, you want to do it with a Cadillac,” he said.

Yes, and you want to do it with your own money, you corporate parasite.  What’s the big strategy for the crippled Volt taking down the arthritic Tesla in the Who-Gives-A-Damn electric car micro-market?

“We’ll sell more (Chevrolet) Volts and lose less money on the Volts than they’ll lose on the (Tesla) Model S,” Akerson said.

Brilliant!  Sounds like a fantastic use of all those taxpayer subsidy dollars.

Akerson said the company is working at achieving the 200-mile range, but it may not be enough.

“What we see on the line of sight is a 200-mile battery car, but at the same time, 200 miles is great, but it’s not going to satisfy the range anxiety that persists,” Akerson said. “It’s still a major issue with the purchasing public, and I think you’ve got to have a generator on board so that you basically have unlimited range.”

“Range anxiety” means “people who don’t want to pay a huge amount of money for a car that strands them in the middle of nowhere when their battery dies.”  I truly wish GM well in their quest to create a perpetual motion machine that achieves unlimited range without using fuel, but respectfully request they pursue this dream with funding from voluntary investors.


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