William Hamilton: Government gunpoint: The Chevy Volt
February 28, 2012
From 1932 to 1955, Great Britain was the world’s top producer of quality motor cars. Some automobiles, such as Rolls Royce, Bentley, and Jaguar, were the world’s leaders in style, luxury, and performance. Then, in 1955, under the Labour Party, government ministers began to interfere in car-manufacturing decisions while, at the same time, caving into workers‚ demands for more money for less work.
By 1975, most of the British car brands were ‘nationalized’ under the name of British Leyland which began the reputation-destroying practice of taking internal parts from one brand and using them on another brand while, at the same time, refusing to make necessary technological changes to compete with the Japanese and the Germans.
Today, other nations own virtually all of Britain’s famed car makers: Germany’s VW owns Bentley, Germany’s BMW owns Rolls Royce, and India’s Tata Motors owns Jaguar. The Red Chinese and the Malaysians own most of the rest.
In the United States, the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler and the cave-ins to the demands of the United Auto Workers union (UAW), point Detroit down the same perilous path as now not-so-great-Britain. But, according to USA Today, GM just posted a $7.6 billion profit; however, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley says GM still owes the U.S. taxpayer $49.5 billion in bail-out money. (Ford, which refused the government bail-out, reported three straight years of profits, closing 2011 with a $6.2 billion gain.)
Meanwhile, GM’s Chevy Volt provides the example of how government-bailed-out GM is being forced by the Obama Administration to produce a not-ready-for-prime-time electric car. Volt sales are so low that many Chevy dealers refuse their Volt allocations.
Each Chevy Volt carries a taxpayer investment of $250,000. Plus, Volt buyers pay about $40,280 and $480 for a home-charging unit to own a car with an EPA estimated, warm-weather, battery-powered range of only 35 miles. After 35 miles, Volt owners must rely on an 85 horsepower fossil-fueled engine. When plugged into a charger, 90-percent of the Volt’s battery power comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power. Only 10 percent comes from hydro power, biomass, bio-fuels, wind, geothermal or solar. Volt buyers seem oblivious to these fossil-fuel facts.
Even though, during government safety tests, three Chevy Volts burst into fire, Volt owners should purchase the rear-windshield defroster option. That way, they can keep their hands warm while pushing the Chevy Volt after its 35-mile battery range runs out and it is too cold for the gas engine to start. Obviously, OnStar should be standard equipment.
The Chevy Volt is reminiscent of the story about the manufacturer of dog food who mounted a million dollar campaign to launch its newest dog-food product. When sales flopped, management asked its dealers for an explanation. The explanation was simplicity itself: ‘The dogs won’t eat it.’
While it is difficult to force dogs to eat what they do not want, Mr. Obama and Jeffrey Immelt, the C.E.O of General Electric have come up with an ingenious plan: GE will buy 12,000 Chevy Volts. But if a GE employee refuses to drive a Chevy Volt, then that GE employee will have to drive his or her own car on company business, and without reimbursement.
The Obama-Immelt deal is what gives the Chevy Volt the characteristic of something that is produced at government gun point. Only essential employees needing reliable transportation — such as GE field engineers — will be excused from having to drive a Chevy Volt.
As for the taxpayer bail-out overall, even U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner acknowledged last month: “We’re going to lose money in the auto industry.” Go figure.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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