Six years ago, President Barack Obama promised to buy a Chevy Volt after his presidency.
“I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line,” Obama announced to a cheering crowd of United Auto Workers activists. “Even though Secret Service wouldn’t let me drive it. But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I’ll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself.”
Now it looks like Obama will not get his chance to make good on the promise. General Motors announced Monday that it would cease production of the hybrid electric plug-in Volt and its gas-powered sister car the Cruze. The announcement came as part of a larger restructuring by the car company as it seeks to focus production around the bigger vehicles in favor with U.S. consumers.
The Volt and the Cruze were two of the signature achievements of the partnership between the Obama administration and General Motors following the auto-industry bailout. Although the Volt was long-planned by GM executives, it received a lot of support from the administration. Obama described the Cruze as “the car of the future.”
Both cars reflected the policies of the Obama administration but never really caught on with the car-buying public. They initially enjoyed a brief bout of enthusiasm from consumers but this was short-lived. Particularly after the price of oil fell dramatically, American consumers moved on to larger vehicles such as SUVs.
The failure of both the Volt and the Cruze is instructive. The Volt was a very high-priced car that was heavily subsidized by government policies, both federal and state, favoring electric vehicles. Many thought its high-price tag doomed it, especially since the gas-powered Cruze was a very similar car at a lower price point. But neither achieved the expected sales. These were cars Americans did not want.
Obama, who once described the manufacture of these cars as “jobs of the future,” could not be reached for comment.