What have republicans got against the Chevy Volt?
In their political prism, the Volt has everything going against it: It’s beloved by environmentalists for getting 61 miles to the gallon of fuel. It’s assembled by unionized workers at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck plant. It enjoys government subsidies intended to encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars — started by H.W.’s oldest son, former President George W. Bush.
To many, this resembles progress. But to conservatives wanting government-bailed-out Detroit to go down, especially if the United Auto Workers union goes with it, this plug-in hybrid is the car that has to die.
Lo and behold, U.S. car sales were hot last month, with General Motors selling more than 100,000 vehicles that get at least 30 mpg. And sales of its Chevy Volt more than doubled from the month before.
The irony is that GM has temporarily stopped production of the Volt following earlier weak sales. Why? The right-wing media had launched an outrageous smear campaign against it. As former GM executive Bob Lutz sarcastically put it, the Volt had become “the poster child for President [Barack] Obama’s socialist meddling in the free automotive market.”
Lutz responded with special anger to a recent “Bill O’Reilly” Fox News show in which the host condemned the Volt as “an unmitigated disaster.” Joshing over the disappointing Volt sales, O’Reilly’s guest, Lou Dobbs said, “It doesn’t work.” Also, “It catches fire.”
None of this is true. The European-market Volt worked well enough to be named the European car of the year. The “catching fire” claim is fiction, Lutz said, based on battery tests “under extremely destructive experimental conditions.” Two of the three batteries involved weren’t in a car. No Volt has ever caught fire in an accident on a public road, he added, while between 2003 and 2007, some 278,000 gas-powered cars did.
Sadly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has lowered himself by catering to feverish right-wing fantasies. He softened the rhetoric a bit by advancing the myth that an already weak General Motors and Chrysler could have survived in bankruptcy reorganization without government help. Most economists deemed that scenario impossible at a time of economic meltdown, when nearly all lending had stopped. And who would buy a car from a bankrupt company not backed by the government?
Judging from past writings on energy policy, Romney probably subscribes to a Bush-like belief that government has a role in helping Americans reduce their oil consumption. But he did join the anti-Volt pile-on this week. Using past tense he commented, “I’m not sure America was ready for the Chevy Volt.” Then he wished it well.
What weird brand of politics revels at the prospect of plowing under a U.S. product so innovative that the Chinese are wanting its engineering secrets? It’s a politics that:
• Ignores the huge subsidies that other governments, including China’s, are pouring into energy technology.
• Went goofy over Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad, in which Clint Eastwood announced, “It’s halftime in America.” Without evidence, some heard a thinly veiled call for a second Obama administration.
Exactly whose side are these people on? If these self-styled patriots want to keep waving the flag, fine. But it should be a white flag, not an American one.
It enjoys government subsidies intended to encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars — started by H.W.’s oldest son, former President George W. Bush.