It hasn’t been easy for the Chevy Volt. Announced with great fanfare as the electric hybrid, alternative energy car of the future, the Volt has had problems getting traction with consumers.
The most recent news is that some Chevrolet dealers don’t want to take their allotment of Volts. The sales of the car have been disappointing — only 7,671 were sold last year — and there have been some concerns about the risk of fires in the Volt’s battery packs, which led to a government investigation that concluded the cars weren’t at a greater fire risk. Whatever the reason, dealers are balking at accepting lots of Volts and devoting precious showroom and on-the-lot space to a car that most consumers apparently don’t want.
Some people hoped that the Volt would lead General Motors back to profitability. The Volt hasn’t filled that role. And dealers are pretty reliable barometers of consumer demand. If hordes of potential buyers were flooding dealerships demanding a Volt, the dealers would be perfectly happy to sell them. The fact that dealers don’t want even a modest allotment of the cars is a strong indication that America isn’t quite ready to be an electric car nation.
Recent car-buying statistics tell a sobering tale about car sales. The federal government has purchased 25 percent of the Chevy and Ford hybrids that have been sold since President Obama took office — at least 14,584 hybrids in the last two years. Auto manufacturers no doubt are happy about the government’s decisions, because consumer demand for the vehicles is falling — for the third year in a row.
In the meantime, the government has committed to buy the first 100 Chevy Volts that roll off the assembly line. Who else is buying the Volt? GE, for one. It can’t resist the chance to get a $7,500 per vehicle rebate, funded by the federal government. Other big corporations that have corporate fleets are expected to follow suit.
Whatever you think of the merits of a Volt (and the car is viewed by some as too expensive, too small, and too limited in its range, among other issues) it is just wrong for the government to subsidize the sale of particular cars — especially when the cars are built by a manufacturer that is largely owned by the government. In this instance, the subsidies also are benefiting large corporations like GE that don’t need taxpayer assistance, and will allow them to curry favor with the Obama Administration and its “green initiatives” at a discount. GE is making billions of dollars in profits. Why are taxpayers helping GE buy cars? And shouldn’t the Chevy Volt succeed or fail on its own merits? Why should the federal government subsidize a car that could turn out to be a lemon?