Town Uses Federal Funds to Buy Chevy Volts

Akerson and Chevy Volt photoEvery once in a while I come across an article that sheds light on what a boondoggle the green initiatives of the Obama Administration are. The latest evidence comes as General Motors tries to prove high consumer demand for the Chevy Volt as it tries to meet its goal of 10,000 vehicles sold in 2011. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the town of DeLand, FL is buying five Chevy Volts. That is not the disturbing part of the story. The article reports that the town is using taxpayer money it has received from a $1.2 million federal grant that is earmarked partially to help with the purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles and other energy-efficient upgrades, including electrical charging stations at City Hall. From the information I gathered on DeLand, it has a population of about 25,000 people.

GM has recently stated that it has approved sales of an additional 2,300 Volts that were used as demos at dealerships. This supposedly brings supply up to about 4,100. As is usually the case at GM, the numbers don’t quite add up as over 3,000 Volts have been listed for sale on prior to the release of the demos, however, I am sure that GM will claim that the increased supply led to the additional purchase of thousands of Volts by consumers. At the same time, the Obama Adminstration is funding localities to buy the vehicles.

The rate at which taxpayer money is being spent on green initiatives is ridiculous. $1.2 million for a town to go green by buying Volts?! How much more of this waste is being unreported and why doesn’t the mainstream media criticize actions like these? I recently found that GM was selling Volts cheap to municipalities. I now find that the town of Babylon, NY (which purchased Volts at $29,500 each) also received a grant made possible by the federal government called the “ChargePoint America Program,” as noted in this Town of Babylon website. Utility companies get a piece of the pie as well; 64 Volts have been purchased as part of a program financed by a $30.5 million dollar federal grant. How strong can Volt consumer demand be if GM is slashing prices to sell to localities? Why did GM cancel plans for a second shift to build Volts if supply can’t keep up with demand?

I recently spoke to a sales associate at a local Chevy dealership who told me that demand from individual consumers for the Volt is practically non-existent. This is not the first time I have heard this. He confirmed that their dealership had not been allowed to sell their demo, but he also told me that the one other Volt in stock has had no interest in it for weeks, with the exception of what he called “gawkers.” Even GM itself has admitted that the Volt has been used as a “lure” to bring consumers to showrooms in order to help sell Chevy Cruzes. A very expensive, taxpayer-funded lure.

Lack of supply can no longer be blamed for low Volt sales. The media, more specifically auto journalists, should be skeptical of Volt demand claims. Anyone who wants to play investigator and obtain the truth about Chevy Volt demand can go on to track inventory (complete with VIN identification) and speak to sales associates at local dealerships to inquire about Volt demand. Many salepeople would be willing to share the truth about the low demand (at least from individual consumers) on the Volt, something Government Motors has been unwilling to do. Selling Volts to fleets and municipalities at the expense of taxpayers is not something to brag about.

So what’s next in the Chevy Volt fiasco? I expect that crony corporation, GE, will start to make good on their promise to buy 25,000 Chevy Volts, just in time for GM to reach or come near their 2011 goal of 10,000 Volts sold. GE can then take tax credits and go on to make money selling tax-subsidized charging stations. The Obama Administration has proven it will go to any ends to show that their green initiatives are successful, including giving millions of dollars to localities to buy Volts. General Motors has shown that they will continue to dishonestly trumpet high consumer demand for the Volt, despite the facts that indicate otherwise. Taxpayers continue to foot the bill in order for GM to tout a vehicle that would not be feasible without huge subsidization and worse yet, the main purpose of the vehicle was to act as a “halo” car to draw consumers into showrooms only as part of a bait and switch strategy. Enough is enough, congress should investigate the costs vs benefits of the green initiative folly that is putting our country further in debt while doing little to help the economy.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.