Let's Debunk that Piece of Cr..The video above, no doubt produced by some Super-PAC or other*, has been making the rounds lately. The average political ad is pretty bad, but this one is especially disgusting because it contains a large quantity of lies and misinformation and further politicizes a technology that should be apolitical (why should burning less expensive oil be a partisan thing?).
The video uses GM promo footage and a narrator and captions provides the BS. Let's debunk the main points:
The Volt Catches Fire?
Yes, like with all gasoline or diesel cars, it's possible to make the Volt catch fire. The NHTSA has made it happen a couple of times in very specific crash tests. Its conclusion is that "based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash." It then gave the Volt an overall safety rating of 5 stars out of 5. On top of that, GM voluntarily reinforced the already safe battery support just to make sure.
Made in China?Those that will be sold in China, yes. Those that are sold in the U.S. are made in Michigan. It was also mostly designed and tested in the US. It's actually strange to claim that the Volt that can be bought in the US is made in China, because I can't think of any car sold in the US that is made in China. Many are made in Canada, Mexico, Germany, South-Korea, Japan, etc.. But not China.
They Cost 100s of Thousands Per Unit to Taxpayers?If you amortize a big investment over short period of time you'll always get crazy numbers like this. It's like saying that if Toyota's big investment in the Prius in 1999 or whatever had been spread over the first 6 months of sale, it would have seemed like every hybrid sold was super-expensive. But spread if over a decade of sales and over a dozen vehicles using that technology and it suddenly looks much better! Another example: If Exxon spends $200 million on some deep offshore well and the rig that goes with it and everything, if you amortize that investment over the oil produced in the first few months, it might seem like each barrel of oil costs thousands and thousands of dollars! This is just a way to lie with numbers and bad economics. Not to mention that when the US government sells its GM stock, it could very well make a profit.
Was the Bailout of GM a Bad Thing?Well, I suppose it was a bad thing if what you want is for the US auto industry to disappear. But if that's not your position, then it was probably a necessity. Even Warren Buffett - not exactly an anti-capitalist - said on Monday that at the time when the auto industry was bailed out, there was no private capital at all available for an orderly bankruptcy. GM would have been liquidated, and its plants are worth a lot less as scrap metal and brick than as a working company now. Check out his exact words below:
Here's the Warren Buffett quote:
BUFFETT: Well, I would say this, I was kind of on the fence about the auto bailout for quite a while. I mean, it kind of went against my instincts, but I will tell you, Steve Ratner is 100 percent right when he says there was not a dime of private capital that would have — would have been available for a managed bankruptcy absent government help. I mean, look, it's very clear to me in hindsight, it wasn't so clear to me at the time...
BUFFETT: ...but it's very clear to me in hindsight that the auto bailout was one of the best things that have happened in this economy. The dominos that would have fallen — you know, we saw dominos fall in September of 2008, we saw them fall so fast and such big ones, you know, we did not need a repeat of that with what would have started with the auto industry. But I do not claim any great foresight on that.
What's to be Ashamed Of?If you strip away adversarial politics that force brain-dead partisans to always oppose whatever the other party supports, what remains is the Volt, an American car that is close to a world leadership position when it comes to plug-in hybrid and electric car technology. You'd think the GOP would be proud of that... But for some reason they hate it.
Bottom line: Political disagreement is fine. Lying and knee-jerk obstructionism isn't.
*By the way, some people speculate Stephen Colbert is behind this, but looking at the site which links to real political sites rather than goofy things, and the twitter feed, I doubt it's him; it's unfunny and not his tone. It only says "Paid for by Obama Volt 2012", which is similar to a joke he made, but aside from that, it doesn't have his signature-style. Hopefully we (and other sites) have no completely misread that.. But even if intended as a joke, people believe that stuff (it's all things we've heard in other places) and it deserved a debunking.