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No spark for the Volt

Published March 10. 2012 09:01AM

Government Motors has stopped production of its semi-electric Volt.

That's because sales are lagging.

So GM has laid off 1,300 workers. The basic problem is that the Volt seems to lack spark with consumers.

The car was ballyhooed by Obama and was supposed to be a game changer. It was supposed to use electricity backed by a gas engine to reach 230 miles per gallon.

With gas prices hovering at $4 a gallon and predicted to go to $5, you would think the Volt would be selling faster than cotton candy at a kindergarten convention.

But that's not the case. Right now there are too many Volts and not enough customers - and this after the government paid $50 billion in bailout assistance, giving taxpayers 61 percent ownership in GM.

So why aren't motorists running out to buy a Volt?

I think the answer is in the price. The car is way too expensive. GM marketing execs overpriced the vehicle to try and quickly recoup their engineering costs. So they're asking $41,000 for basically a jazzed-up Chevette. Still, some have purchased a Volt and those early buyers say they're happy with it.

However, research shows that those early Volt buyers earn at least $175,000 a year.

There are just way too many Americans among the 99 percent who earn much less and can't afford to buy a Volt. Clearly, the Volt is priced for the one percent. Maybe the only American who can afford a Volt is Mitt Romney.

On top of this, the government is trying to sweeten the pot by giving Volt buyers a $7,500 tax credit. In other words, the government will help wealthy people to save money on gas. Of course, there's another 99 percent who also need to save money on gas. But no $7,500 credit is available for them. Maybe this is what they mean by trickle-down economics.

To try and bolster sales of the Volt, the government is buying up quite a few. That might not be a good idea because there reportedly are other issues with the vehicle aside from price.

Critics say half the cost of the Volt is in the batteries. Batteries only last so long. So when it comes time to sell your used Volt, who is going to buy it knowing that replacement batteries cost up to $18,000?

When it's time to buy a battery, Volt owners likely won't do it. The cost of the battery will exceed the resale value of the car. Even worse, they say, electric cars don't age well. Their wheels, axles and gearboxes offer more resistance and will require more power to operate. Therefore, a new battery will not last as long as the old one, meaning that a Volt will become disposable when the first battery dies. And that's not even getting into the argument about the possibility of batteries exploding.

They say the Obama administration gave GM $241.4 million for battery development. The money came from the American Recovery and Development Act. Critics say the battery development work was done in China even though the money was supposed to create American jobs.

All things considered, the Volt just seems to be a problem, including the name itself.

Consumers feel that Volt is a dumb name. Naming an electric car Volt is like naming your dog Bark.

On the other hand, someone told me the Volt might turn out to be the perfect symbol of the Obama presidency because neither one is living up to expectations. Only time will tell if voters feel it's time to re-charge.

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