March 10, 2012
Life hasn’t exactly been easy for the Chevrolet Volt. Although it was just recently named 2012 European Car of the Year in Opel Ampera guise, GM announced previous to the awarding they were suspending production for little over a month because of slow sales and dealers rejecting further allotments. On top of that, the Volt has had some image issues stemming from the NHTSA’s disclosure late last year about how an example they t-boned caught fire some three weeks after it was tested in May 2011.
It’s only insult to injury then Republican politicians have turned to bashing the Volt in debates and interviews, associating the car with radical left-wing environmentalism and government bailout money. Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich decided to fault the Chevy plug-in hybrid for lack of space for a gun rack of all things (the Volt can indeed accommodate one, if you were curious), and frontrunner Mitt Romney said it was “an idea whose time has not come.” Perhaps the worst bit of uninformed criticism came from conservative group American Tradition Partnership Inc. who said the Volt was an “exploding Obamamobile.”
GM CEO Dan Akerson testifying before Congress about the Volt in January said, “Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag. And that, sadly, is what the Volt has become.” How right you are — or were — Dan.
Mr. Akerson also went onto say that he thinks Volt sales have been pinched because of the political trash talk. Challengers to the Obama administration, on the other hand, see it as an effective way of resonating with their voters. Art Spinella, an analyst who studies new car buyers as president of CNW Marketing Research, noted Republicans buy Chevys, especially the Silverado pickup, in greater numbers than Democrats do. And while Chevy buyers tend to identify as Republican, less than 14 percent of Volt owners lean to the political right.
While it’s difficult to tell how much of an effect the political hate speech has had on Volt sales, Akerson isn’t alone in believing sales could be much better without the GOP bashing it. Volt sales totaled up to 7,671 cars last year, falling short of GM’s target of 10,000 cars by a little over 2,000. In the first two months of 2012 GM only sold about 1,600 Volts, and that sales track is falling way short of Akerson’s year-end goal of 45,000. Art Spinella says part of that huge divide is due to attacks on the campaign trail.
Buyers who identify as conservative “will not buy a car that has anything at all that they perceive being associated with the administration,” Spinella said.
Akerson isn’t the only non-political figure out there who’s upset that the Volt has founded itself stranded in political crossfire, either. Everyone’s favorite auto-exec and registered Republican who helped to develop the Volt, former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, is outraged as well.
“I don’t mind criticizing Obama, I don’t mind criticizing the Democrats, and, you know me, I think global warming is huge hoax perpetrated by the global political left,” Lutz said. “But when it comes to telling outright lies to advance your political purposes and damage an American company that is greatly on its way back, hurt employment in Hamtramck, Michigan, I just think it’s totally outrageous.”