"The Volt as a brand has become politicized"
Is it possible to have the Volt conversation without it being about politics?
Doug Mataconis’ post on the Volt (General Motors Loses Nearly $50,000 Every Time It Sells A Chevy Volt), as well as the news and reaction to the Reuters piece upon which the post is based, lead me to some thought and reading on the subject.
I will state that I am not a Volt booster and, indeed, do not trust GM products (a relevant point, as I am about to purchase a new car). I also remain somewhat ambivalent on aspects of the GM bailout process (although I cannot ignore the fact that the company remains open, which is a significant outcome).
However, I think that the title of this post, taken from an LAT piece (quoting Jeremy Anwyl of Edmunds.com) hits the nail on the head: it is very difficult to judge the Volt without it becoming a wholly political question.
Still, a few things are worth considering, I would think, in an assessment of the vehicle and whether the number reported by Reuters is the right number by which to judge the car. Bob Lutz, writing for Forbes thinks not:
The statement that GM “loses” over $40K per Volt is preposterous. What the “analyst” in whom poor Ben Klayman placed his faith has done is to divide the total development cost and plant investment by the number of Volts produced thus far. That’s like saying that a real estate company that puts up a $10 million building and has rental income of one million the first year is “losing” 9 million dollars, or several hundred thousand per renter.
CNBC provides the basic math:
General Motors has spent roughly $1.2 billion developing the Chevy Volt. And in the last two years it’s only sold 21,500 versions of the extended range electric car. That means GM has lost a little over $55,000 on every Volt it’s sold.
Beyond that, the LAT piece linked above notes the following:
Plenty of vehicles besides the Volt lose money when their development costs are included in the analysis, analysts said.
Anwyl said he suspects Nissan is losing money on every Leaf electric vehicle it sells because of the investment in battery technology.
Even Honda may lose money on its conventional gasoline engine-equipped Fit because the sub-compact has a small profit margin that is eaten up by the unfavorable exchange rate between the Japanese yen and the U.S. dollar, Anwyl said. All of the Fits sold in the U.S. are made in Japan.
“Toyota lost a lot of money in the beginning when it brought the Prius to the world,” Koslowski said. “This is particularly true for cars with new powertrain technology like the Volt.”
So, some comparative data help to set context.
Also, the assertion that the Nissan Leaf is more popular than the Volt doesn’t bear scrutiny, as least in terms of recent sales:
Nissan sold fewer than 700 of the vehicles in August and just a little more than 4,000 so far this year.
The Volt? According to the article, it has sold 13,000 this year. As such, the notion that the Leaf is a radical success versus the Volt does not stand up to the numbers, at least not this year. In fairness to critics, GM did expect to sell twice that many cars.
Now, it should be stated that a Leaf-Volt comparison is problematic, because the Leaf is a fully electric vehicle and the Volt is a hybrid. Still, that is the comparison that comes up (it did in the discussion thread of Doug’s post), so it seemed worth pointing out the numbers. The Toyota Prius is, of course, the King of the Hybrids.
Still, it seems to me that once we set politics aside we can say a few things: 1) including overall development costs of the vehicle into the per sale profits is misleading, 2) there is a development path here not dissimilar to other vehicles, and 3) we really don’t have enough data at this point to declare whether this has been a success or a failure.
I am not writing this to defend GM, the Volt, the bailout, or really much of anything. Rather, I am appealing for a consideration of how things really work, and how comparable situations have played out before rushing to judgment.
On the politics point raised here, it isn’t hard to see this in action. A quick search of the Volt in Google news gets stories from Town Hall, Fox News, and Heritage all pointing out the loss figure.
I am, as I mention in the other thread, a Prius driver. I also think I see, as an engineer, why mild hybrids (non plug-in) are easier to do and more cost effective than the plug-ins.
That said, you are completely right, and of course, the same political game was played with the Prius back in the day. This article bugged the crap out of me:
Hummer Greener Than Prius?
It was a cheat in the same way as the current Volt criticism, and it was wrong. In fact, if you try to click past Slashdot you’ll see that “CNW Marketing” (a very suspicious name for a fair and balanced report) has dried up and blown away.
In fact, that CNW Marketing was probably a template for the “up to whatever” losses ascribed to the Volt.
This again makes me wonder: why are conservatives rooting for the Volt to fail? Do you like paying $4.27 a gallon for gas? Are only gas-guzzling SUVs “real murrican” cars?
(It also reminds me of some of the stupider arguments against Obamacare. What, you like that insurance companies can drop you at any time?)
I thought Republicans were supposed to be the Party of Ideas and the Party of Entrepreneurs, and all that. It’s one thing to question government subsidies for businesses, it’s another to be so idiotic and wrapped up in bashing mythical hippies that you discourage technological innovations.
“HA! Stupid liberals, trying to progress beyond archaic, limited fossil fuels! NICE PROGRESS, LOSERS!”
Conservatives will stoop to any depths to insult liberals, when they make dumber investments on a daily basis. AS THEY SHOULD, because that’s how you develop a market!
It’s deeply irrational to hate on the Volt, rather than to just oppose Federal tax credits for any auto purchase.
(It’s also irrational to hold down Federal gasoline tax, but that is a harder nut to crack!)
It’s really eerie, I had almost the same discussion with one of my brothers a few weeks ago, and it was an exercise in finding out how just how many talking points conservative radio has put out there concerning the GM bailout (and federal loans and purchases of preferred and common equities.) My brother argued strongly that the bailout is the reason the Volt is currently a financial loser, and he even argued that the Volt is an example of how the Obama Administration is trying to push a green agenda on Americans.
So, yes Doug, I learned through 15 minutes of aggravating conversation with my brother, that conservatives have politicized the Chevy Volt brand.
The key thing to tell such people is that the Volt was introduced in 2006.
last paragraph … oops, sorry Steve, you’re not Doug,
Thanks John, and that’s exactly what I did, and he didn’t even blink an eye, he just went back to the other talking points concerning the bailout, Obama and the UAW.
I honestly believe there is an alternative crazification reality that 27% of the people believe in – it’s inhabited by over 50% of the Republican Party.
This is like rhetorically asking whether discussions about Long Term Capital Management, or “The Big Dig,” or the TARP bailout, etc., needed to be so political. Of course those discussions were politicized. Because they were political issues.
When a company that’s controlled by the federal government and a labor union, and which was taken over in a legal maneuver over which Machiavelli himself would have blushed, pisses away taxpayer dollars on a product that has about as much of a chance of being successful as a lead balloon, the discussion is going to be political and it should be political. Because it has nothing to do with the machinations of enterprise nor industry. It’s only about politics.
(Totally as an aside, that picture up top is the 2006 show car. It promised a lot of things. I took one look at it and said “no way.” People loved it because it was low, and aggressive looking, and had fat tires. Those are all things you can’t do and make a hybrid work. They did manage to keep a flavor of the original, but really. Open two windows, one with that pic and one with the production Volt. The production Volt is kind of sad and fat in comparison.)
@john personna: A fair point. I will will admit to lazily using the photo that was already in the OTB database.
Not only that, it proves again the power of our Time-Traveling President.
If the Volt succeeds, that is a vindication of Obama’s bailout of the auto industry. Therefore, according to conservative media, the Volt cannot be a success, no matter how many cars are sold, or what the metrics are. Also, too, electric cars somehow=clean energy, which is contrary to the conservative plan or gaining energy independence through “Drill, baby, drill.”
@Steven L. Taylor:
Oh I like the picture ;-), for the cruel reasons I list above.
Part of the image problem is that Ford really is doing better hybrids right now. Sloppy commentators will say “see, that’s because they had no Obama.”
The right answer is “that’s stupid,” not “no, we love the Volt.”
No reason to hitch Obama or yourselves to a bad design.
I’m sorry, that’s a fact, and that’s irrelevant to conservatives these days. Their most likely response would be ” Aha! And THAT’S the year the Democrats regained control of Congress. “
Someone needs to do a “President Obama, Time Traveler” comic book.
Let’s make it easy then. Anyone who dismisses the Volt because of politics….then gets dismissed themselves.
Now this will get sticky when some Volt-hater insists they just hate the Volt, not the bailout or Obama or green technology. But in some cases, it will be obviously political. Such as this example:
Tsar’s post just goes to show that to a winger, hatred of everything they view as liberal skews their world view to the point they become actively anti-American and hope for American companies to fail. Why? Because, Obama, that’s why.
In an effort to piece together a coalition that can reach 51% the Republicans first turned to the racists, then the religious fanatics, then the anti-science crowd and now the crew that wants America to fail so it will prove just how demonic Barack Obama really is. What a foul tent the party leaders have hoisted.
And then you have to tell them that Democrats only regained control of Congress in January 2007, because the mid-term election was only held in November 2006…..
This is like conversations I used to have with conservatives who blamed Clinton for the 1992 defense cuts, where I had to point out that George H.W. Bush, not Bill Clinton, was president in 1992.
It’s clearly impossible for this to be about anything but politics to many people. Even clearly true statements about the distortions of the cost accounting in the original article can’t be accepted if they contradict the political position of a commenter. What chance do actual timelines, real accounting practices, and accepted market development practices have against true belief? I’m not sanguine about GM’s chances. They’ve shown a consistent ability to target their own feet and the smart money is on them blowing this up, but this $50k/unit loss nonsense is a classic political distortion.
I have to get back to this new part we’re due to start shipping next week. You know, the one that I’ve already lost $380k in tooling and development costs on.
For the record, my post has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what more than one auto industry expert has called questionable practices by General Motors
@Facebones: I find it to be a real disturbing trend that everything is so politicized that people root for failure (Volt, stimulus, Olympics, etc) if it could possibly help their side. This is a sociological (or is it pyschological) phenomenon that seems to be new to to this country. Perhaps this is in the political science realm to help explain? And what are the long term ramifications?
Well, in the long run the Prius beat the Hummer 😉 I’m sure cars will be appropriately designed for energy costs, over time. Though … that might mean that in the long run the Prius beats the Volt as well.
Yeah yeah, Doug, and “more than one auto industry expert” claimed that the Hummer was greener than the Prius.
@Doug Mataconis: “For the record, my post has nothing to do with politics”
It’s ultimately impossible to have a reasonable discussion with someone utterly blind to their own bias.
“Part of the image problem is that Ford really is doing better hybrids right now. Sloppy commentators will say “see, that’s because they had no Obama.””
Which is ironic, because Ford is the only Detroit manufacturer that still owes money to the Federal government.
I’m sorry. General Motors is always right. Everyone go buy a Volt! Is that the approved propaganda you want from me?
I did not know that.
BTW, I’m seeing a few more of the greenest cars on the planet on the road out here in California. Of course, you can still get a car pool (HOV) sticker for them.
The natural gas Honda Civic .
And natural gas, where you can get it, is cheap cheap.
I suppose that explains the reference to Obama in your post’s opening sentence.
Do you deny the fact that Obama has heavily promoted the Volt as a sign of GM’s “comeback”?
Of course I deny that. “Heavily promoted’ is total bullshit.
(A Volt commercial hosted by the President would be “heavy promotion.” The same happy words a politician puts on everything under the sun, not so much.)
Well, there is this.
I think you gave me the wrong link ;-), he’s promoting Jeeps at that one.
BTW, to again split this where I see it, I think the car buying tax credits in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) were horrific.
I think Obama did support those, and I would split with him on that.
That statement, while true, isn’t really meaningful, given that GM paid off its loans with government-provided tarp funds. Unless you account for the money the government has lost holding huge quantities of GM stock, it’s not really a fair comparison. In essence Ford is the only one that still owes money because it was the only one that actually had to pay the loans back.
No, that´s not the problem with the Volt. The problem are batteries, that are pretty expensive and that have low efficiency. Toyota still do not sell the Prius in many markets where they operate(Brazil, where most eletricity comes from hydropower, is a prime example) and even with subsidies the Volt is more expensive than the Cruze, the car in which he is based.
Yes, no one doubts that one day batteries can give an eletric car the same autonomy that a gas fueled car has today. But that day has no arrived yet. And yet, yes, without a major political factor(subsidies) that Volt would not exist.
We have a weird situation here. The median price for a new car is pretty high. The base and economy models are a small part of the total market. Most people “choose their luxury.” That might be a big SUV, or a fast car, or a status symbol.
For many of those people the mild hybrid are actually a step down, less expensive thaN the previous car they owned. If they choose that way.
The average new car sells for $30K, you can get into a base hybrid for a little over $20k.
In other markets it’s a different dynamic. I’d guess that in Brazil the average new car costs less than the base Prius or Insight.
Considering that the government remains a major shareholder in GM, and presumably will be for the foreseeable future (since taxpayers are still underwater on their investment, and the administration isn’t going to dump the shares before November), the fact of the matter is that any GM product is going to be politicized until the government sells its shares. You might as well ask why discussions of the postal service are politicized, or why British Leyland’s management was politicized in the 1970s and 80s.
As for the profitability or lack thereof of the Volt, the reality is that GM had no business case for developing the vehicle in the first place without the prospect of massive government subsidies. Doubling-down post-bailout to continue to build a warmed-over, $15k more expensive Prius doesn’t make any economic sense; it’s the sunk cost fallacy made manifest. And the weak reputation of the Volt will hardly endear potential buyers of any followup vehicle that might amortize the development costs, adding to the death spiral. The best GM can hope for is that the technology will bear some fruit in terms of intellectual property rights they can sell to other carmakers who can produce a price-competitive plugin hybrid.
@Chris Lawrence: This is fair: I agree that the overall conversation will be politicized. My point here is more narrow: the actual assessment of numbers like the one provided by Reuters can be done without partisan consideration.
Beat that strawman, Doug! Beat ‘im good!
Yes, I do deny it. Obama “heavily promoted” the Volt? What, has he been starring in Volt commercials and I’ve missed it?
What the hell? That doesn’t prove your point at all. Did you not expect anyone to actually click through and read the link?
Oh you want me to deny stuff too. I see.
@john personna: The point is not how much people spend on cars. The point is that is impossible to produce batteries for electric cars in large scale with a reasonable price. Even with subsidies a electric car is more expensive than a gas fueled car with the same specifications.
The discussion is going to be heavily politicized. One can ask whether the subsidies and the distortions on the market are a good idea, one can ask about the political motives of the people that are willing to pay a premium for a electric car.
@Chris Lawrence: In other words, it seems like it should be possible to oppose/critique the Volt, or to support it, for reasons other than “Obama!”
As noted: I am not a fan and if I were in the market for a hybrid, I would buy a Prius. As it stands, I am likely to buy a Toyota for my next car (but a non-hyrbid). The fact that the two Toyotas that I have owned have gone over 140,000 miles each with basically no problems is the main reason for that choice (something that was decidedly not the case for the 3 Fords, and 1 Dodge I have owned over the years).
Denying Obama’s promotion of the Volt is denying reality. If you choose to do that for partisan reasons, I understand. Frankly, it really doesn’t mater to me what Obama thinks about the Volt.It does bother me that he favors artificially subsidizing it’s price by promoting an unnecessary tax credit.
What I’m suggesting is that the line between pragmatic and luxury hybrids is blurred in the US.
With $4 gas a $22K hybrid is probably pragmatic, but there are people who will sell you a $50K 2012 GMC Yukon Hybrid. That’s a luxury product.
Dude, you just gave us a link with Obama “heavily promoting” Jeeps. Make up your mind.
@Doug Mataconis: My guess is that they are disputing your characterization of the promotion as “heavily”–but you are correct to note that he has touted it (and even moreso his view of the state of GM). In that way, this is all hopelessly political.
And I agree about the tax credits.
Toyota has a pretty big head start here, right? The Prius has been around for a while. If you say “hybrid” pretty much anyone would come up with the Prius. GM took a shot at making a splash with a pretty fancy (and thus expensive) car. Honda tried the other route entirely – dropping hybrid drivetrains into their regular cars – and it didn’t work too well (I loved that idea, but that’s me: boring hondas work for me).
I did the math on a hybrid about 6 years ago and concluded a hybrid wasn’t worthwhile for me, because I just don’t drive enough miles and nearly all my driving is “highway” or close enough. So in the end, a regular ‘ole Civic that gets me 35mpg was the answer.
The next time I’m in the market for a commuter car, which hopefully won’t be for at least 5 years (8 would be better), I’m hopeful there will be better options. The Volt, of course, is not intended to be a basic commuter car. The Leaf is more interesting to me, but the hit you take on range in a New England winter is rough.
Only because someone thought that the appearance of the word “obama” in my post was somehow significant. In reality, it has nothing to do with the subject matter of that post.
GM being politicized: of course, due to the bailout.
The Volt in particular being politicized: one part bailout, one part progressives like “green” tech so conservatives must hate it. It’s a perfect setup. Whaddyagonnado?
@Rob in CT:
For some real sad history, see the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.
Very arguably US government research broke ground on hybrids, and the Japanese companies reacted out of fear, not wanting to be left out. Then the US lost interest, etc., etc.
If only that was the extent of it. A lot of conservatives are rooting for GM to fail – because it would hurt Obama. Oh, and because GM is a nest of dirty commies.
I think a problem here is that Americans seem to to be blind to the fact that government has indeed fostered technological and economic development in the past through financial subsidies of various kinds .
Without defense spending and government mail contracts, the US aerospace industry doesn’t get off the ground and defense spending has subsidized the industry throughout.
The computer industry? Virtually a creation of government
Telecommunications industry? Took off as a government regulated monopoly.
In the governing myth of technological progress, all these industries were built through the efforts of plucky pioneers, and the Romans never did anything for us.
That´s the problem and that´s why the discussion over the Volt is going to be politicized.
Get an electric car that will reliably do 300 miles and is fun to drive, we can talk. We’re not there yet. I drove a Lexus hybrid SUV for a while but discovered that, sadly, it drove like a Lexus, and I’m not quite ready for the retirement home.
It looks like I’ll be in the market in a year, 18 months, since I have a new driver coming up. He gets the wife’s RAV, she gets my A6, I get something new. At least that’s my version of events. Have not discussed it with the wife yet. It’s possible that she will have a different plan.
If you really wanted to be honest you would say:
My philosophy says that government influence/investment in the private sector makes thing worse, but the story I read was wildly inaccurate in supporting my point so I will now point to better information.
Obama said he was going to buy a Volt after his presidency. I think that counts as promotion. “Heavy” is a debatable term.
It’s not that the Volt that is politicized…it’s progress and science.
One party is all in for progress and science. One party is afraid of progress and science.
It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about cars or climate change or evolution or stem cell research. One party looks to the future…and one party wants to “Take America Back” to the 19th century.
It must be embarrassing to call yourself a Republican…the party of stupid.
For the record, my post has nothing to do with politics…
Your willingness to believe without question shoddy “analysis” of companies that received auto bailout funds has everything to do with politics.
“Took off?” Hardly. The regulatory regime and government grant of monopoly status held back progress for decades. If it weren’t for partial deregulation and the elimination of the monopoly status, we’d still be prohibited from connecting our own phones.
@Doug Mataconis: Except that your post had everything to do with an incredibly flawed “analysis” of the cost per car that included all the R&D costs for an entire new way of producing cares into the limited number of cars that have already been produced – and that “analysis” was designed for political reasons.
If we take away that piece of your post, you don’t have much of substance (other than the libertarian plaint that the government shouldn’t be influencing the market).
Then please provide some link or cite demonstrating how Obama has been “heavily promoting the Volt as a sign of GM’s comeback.” Because you’ve just been asserting this without any proof. And it has to be “heavy promotion”, as you put it, not just the standard cheerleading you’d expect any American president to do for any American industry.
I agree that you would understand someone denying reality for partisan reasons.
The closest, I suppose, would be the Tesla S. Range = 265 miles. But it’ll cost ya about $100k.
@ Michael Reymolds…
Of course you are correct…my BMW motorcycle is low-emission, gets 45 miles per gallon, and spends a great deal of time at triple digit speeds. When a Prius can match that I’m all in.
But the first car that Benz built in 1885 went all of 8mph, and was hard to control. It actually hit a wall during one of the first public demonstrations.
I guess if you are a Republican posing as a Libertarian you expect to go directly to point B…and never even bother with point A.
Sure. In some Platonic alternative universe, the telephone industry “could” have taken off without government regulation and support. In this universe, it did not, here on or any where else. That doesn’t mean that the mature industry should not have been deregulated. That decision was correct.
I did not know that. Here’s hoping he does not file for his credit.
Another myth of technological progress? \That the first economically successful model somehow pops into existence, without a prior history of wrong turns and refinements. Thus the Model T is seen somehow as the “first car” , and not the end product of an already decades long process of trial and error and refinement
I think that the Model T of electric cars is ahead of us, not behind us-and it may not be the Chevy Volt, but it may be built with technology pioneered by the Chevy Volt.
@stonetools: I think we’re using different definitions of “took off.”
@stonetools: Sent too soon…anyway, in my view the industry didn’t really “take off” until post-deregulation. I mean, until Carterfone you couldn’t even connect a device to the network unless it was owned by the carrier, and rapid progress in the general consumer market for telecom didn’t occur until after the 1982 consent decree and consequent AT&T divestiture.
I think one could argue, as you did, that common-carrier type regulation of the very early telecom industry was beneficial to its early institution. However, I think it was allowed to persist for far too long and seriously limited both technological progress and consumer benefit.
There are not enough “ha ha ha”‘s laughed in the history of mankind to fully snark on this statement.
Face it, dude, as a libertarian you may not be a fully-blown “Go Team Red” guy, but any (and I mean any!) story that reflects poorly on Team Blue gets the full hype in your posts. In fact, you could not be any more predictable in this regard.
My mother, bless her RW heart, has nothing but antipathy for GM now and the Volt in particular. As a person who has zero interest in cars beyond driving herself and her friends to doctors (who will abandon them for those highly profitable Illegals after Obamacare becomes fully implemented) this would be an odd phenomena except for the fact that she watches FOX News about 12 hours a day. Apparently it’s not really about Obama, but the UAW and somehow, the Chinese. I didn’t want to make it a big deal, so I left it at that.
She would be pleased as punch if GM were to fail and the Volt were entirely to blame.
She would have no opinion on the Volt except for her TV viewing habits.
Give Doug a break.
Sure, he’s a bit more than obtuse. But dammit! He’s not voting for Romney!
OK, he’s more than a little obtuse but he still has that anti-Romney thing going for him.
Let’s face it, realistically, the best we can hope for from Doug is that he doesn’t vote for Romney. He is programmed never to vote for the guy with “D” beside his name, even if that guy’s economic policies would be acceptable for a a moderate Republican circa 1970-9.
Im OK with one less vote for Romney in a swing state.
The Lexus hybrid had horrible highway mileage. But I never thought of it as an old folks car.
Ironically most of the rednecks I hang out with think any Lexus is a car for negroes. Go figure eh? If only BMW offered the same level of service that Mercedes does.
There are other alternatives besides electric (which have been around for years). One is the hydrogen fuel cell, which uses electric current to produce hydrogen, which then goes into the throttle body. People who are using these report 25-60% improvement in mpg. Another alternative that some are trying to adapt to the car is the magnet generator, which uses permanent magnets to produce electricity. Many are already using these to cut home electrical bills by half. Years ago, a racing mechanic built a Pontiac for GM that got 50 mpg with a V8. GM dropped the project and the engine builder kept the engine. There is still a lot that can be done with the internal combustion engine. Natural gas is also an alternative that would be a lot cheaper, we just need more stations to sell it for cars.
There’s a difference in obtuseness and obliviousness.
For a fairly savvy guy, Doug falls for the obvious RW wurlitzer stuff waaay too often.
And he has a tendency to be intentionally, super-obviously Sgt. Schultz -style obtuse. A la:
I can never really be sure when he actually isn’t getting it and when the whole schmeer is going over his head.
As I said before, my take is that it is not necessarily a Team Red bias, but an anti-Team Blue bias. If you ever read The Agitator (aka Radley Balko’s blog) it’s the same type of reaction. Balko (a libertarian as well, I’m seeing the start of a pattern) is a god amongst men when he is reporting on cops gone wild, but he also gets suckered by the odd Drudge Report BS.
BTW, when I said that Balko is a god amongst men, I sincerely meant it. When it comes to reporting (and I mean actual on-the-ground reporting) about police excesses and the impact that has on citizens, there is absolutely no one better than Balko. Literally, there are people (Cory Maye) who would still be in jail were in not for Radley Balko’s reporting.
But when it comes to political blogging, Mataconis, like Balko, also has this weirdly libertarian, not really pro-Team Red, but definitely anti-Team Blue bias, that bleeds through into otherwise innocuous “stories” like the Volt crap that Doug posted earlier.
In the case of the Doug’s Volt post, I lean way more oblivious over obtuseness.
Which in a way is more scary. Doug is usually pretty obvious when he’s being intentionally obtuse; when he’s being intentionally obtuse at least you understand that he’s not actually believing the original story he’s blogging about, but pretending so for some perceived political gain. But when he’s flat-out oblivious, it means that the story and the implied message behind it is so inside his wheelhouse that he doesn’t get that he’s being snookered.
Understanding the biases of an author is key. I understand that confirmation bias can skew an otherwise fair observer.
Getting fooled by the original Volt story is understandable. Saying that the reason that you blogged about the story had nothing to do with politics is predictable.
All you have done, Steven, in your reference, is point out what any freshman business student knows: development costs are amortized over the projected sales volume.
That is a separate argument as to whether the product will achiieve market acceptance on buyer product attribute preferences and price.
Thank God I’m the private equity guy, and you are the professor. This is a product dud. It survives on the back of the taxpayer and political considerations. Period.
And let’s hope you never run a car company or a political entity that makes business decisions.
Shockingly, that was all I was trying to do with post. The whole point is that the 50,000 number is bogus, as you note.
Is this the part where I get to be patronizing back and point out that it is a good thing I am the professor and you are the private equity guy who doesn’t have to teach people basic analysis and point out basic reading comprehension errors?
Seriously, it is possible to make a point and participate in a conversation without your typical condescending tone.
@de stijl: @de stijl:
I could agree on Balko up to a point; he is very good at aggregating stories on police and prosecutor abuse from across the country that show a consistent pattern but he is not really a reporter.
On anything economic he isn’t just oblivious, he is willfully dumb and anything written by his Reason or Cato pals gets automatically defended no matter how it gets exposed as stupid.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Seriously, it is possible to make a point and participate in a conversation without you typical condescending tone.
You say such things to a god among men? How dare you!
So Steven points out that the Reuters article and Doug’s reaction is foolish plus acknowledges out that he distrusts GM and you rip him for it .
Reading comprehension fail as usual
Does your business card read:
“Drew – Private Equity Super Genius”
Please provide evidence of the existence of this machine.
So “Obama” is just a word now? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that you were appealing for a “sane businessman” the very same year Mitt Romney is running his “Vote for me…I’m good at business” presidential campaign.
As to the “subject matter of that post”…it was a misleading article and you drew the wrong conclusion from it. Good job.
Re: Balko: That was my intended point – good on police / prosecutor misbehavior, but sucky on economics and politics (with a bad tendency to go back to Reason and Cato sources for questionable analysis). He can be very, very ill-informed on economics.
Don’t let his Reason or Cato tenure cloud your judgement entirely – he’s not just an aggregator of police / prosecutor misbehavior, but he is an actual reporter (or he has become one since he left Reason). He has done on the ground honest-to-God reporting on many of the police misconduct cases he blogs about.
@Ernieyeball: Here is your evidence: Check these out:
this site shows actual pictures and gives many details about similar projects:
(note this appeared in Hot Rod magazine, a credible source if there ever was one)
This one is about Mr. Ralph Moody, another racing great who built an 80mpg motor!
If the car companies and government want better gas mileage vehicles, the answer is right there in the racing shops of America! That’s where it can be done, not some corporate headquarters or some Federal government agency.
Fair enough. Perhaps I misunderstood where you were going.
Also – as much as I cross swords with JP, I think his commentary here has been very worthy of consideration. (oh, and by the way, hi Alex!! Good to hear from you.).
And Steven, sorry for the misunderstanding. But by now you must know me: needle, needle, needle…….
Now, the car still sucks…..
@Ernieyeball: Here is the missing Ralph Moody article site:http://www.caranddriver.com/columns/al-gore-wasnt-the-only-guy-flogging-an-80-mpg-car
2nd. article: http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20073680,00.html (from People magazine, also a reliable source).
What Obama should do is offer a $10 million prize to the first person who builds an engine that gets 60mpg motor that meets emissions standards, runs on regular gas, and has adequate (200) horsepower. It can be done. The wrong way is trying to force automakers with some sort of requirements or laws. They always get around that.
Thanks, I appreciate you saying so.
There is no need to offer a prize: anyone who could accomplish this feat would make more than $10 million, as there would be massive amounts of money to be made for a company offering such a car, especially as gas prices go up. There is a reason that this post is about a hybrid and why the Prius is a big seller for Toyota. This is one of those cases wherein I don’t buy the notion that there is an engine being repressed by the oil/car companies (indeed, I remember such tales when I was in middle school and I am now firmly in middle age).
I’m not a luxury hybrid owner – I have a 2008 Prius which I purchased for $21,000, I get 50 mph on the highway and 43 mph around town. And, in the 3 years I’ve owned it I’ve done nothing but change the oil and buy new tires. Great car for my commute driving.
I’d call you a leadfoot for the 43 in town ;-), but I know there are weird things that can bring down the hybrid mpg. I get 52 in town right now, but little things help that. Like, it’s up-hill away from my house (the engine has to be on as it warms anyway) and down-hill home again (when the engine will happily be off).
@Steven L. Taylor:
Yeah, I’d say 60 mpg with 200 hp would be pretty successful. Dare I say magical? 😉
I’m thinking back to one of my first cars, a GTI Rabbit with 85 hp stock. I thought I was doing good with a bunch of gray market parts bringing me up to maybe 110!
I got 55 mph on a trip down 101 from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara and LA.
Yeah, the 43-45 mpg on local makes me wonder, but San Francisco with hills and the area where I live (more hills) seems to be a negative that I haven’t managed to get better fuel economy out of.
(That GTI was one of the most fun cars I ever had, and I had some later with multiples of that hp.)
Yeah, I don’t drive a “very hilly” mix, just rolling hills usually.
I’ve taken it over some 11,000 foot passes, and my 2005 will do it, but with that early (smaller engine) model, it’s vital to run the speed limit. Heading in too fast you can deplete the battery too soon, and bog down.
Fair enough. Not disagreeing he has a positive impact in some areas.
@Steven L. Taylor: Actua@Steven L. Taylor: Take a look at this:
Cars available only in Europe and other countries get much higher mpg. There have also been carburetors designed that could achieve 80+ mpg that were not put into mass production.
I’m going way back here but my recollection is that a big part of Smokey’s secret (whose column in Popular Science was one of my favorites as a teenager) was pre heating the fuel to just below the vapor point before it entered the engine. The car companies worried that under mass production and real world conditions such as traffic accidents the ‘just below’ would turn into ‘just above’ all too often and gasoline, which in its liquid form is surprisingly resistant to ignition, would become vapor with its very real and necessary property of exploding at the slightest spark.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I’m actually a nice guy, I just play the role of a prick for sport and to get people riled up.
Although I adored Buckley and watching Firing Line as a kid, give me Prime Ministers Questions any day.
Designed? Were they ever built and tested in the real world?
Please provide evidence of these carburetors.
With all sincerity, Steven. Sorry if I offended. All apologies. I’m just an intentional provacateur who attempts to get the debate going. To get people steaming. I don’t mean 5% of what you would call “condescending.”.
But boring debate is just that, boring. Let’s get it on, lets get the issues out there, let’s have it out.
I think you know what I do, it’s no business for the shy or faint of heart. Its no business for the go along get along…..I happen to think our national debate could use a dose of that. It’s important stuff.
That’s just me.
@stonetools: the cool looking “concept” (shown above) was in shows back in ’07- the ugly piece of junk that actually hit the street came in ’10. nobody wants an American car to fail, but when this one did (after the bailout and another $7,500 in tax credits for going “green”) some of us just laugh- what else can we do about the money squandered? chevy should stick to trucks and vett’s- about all they ever do right. It’s embarrassing to watch our once great auto industry just turn into what it is today. so yes, the volt is now a lightning rod!
Heh. BMW 740. Not the L. The shorter one. Michael, trust me on this one.
Otherwise, just get a Porsche or an M5. Or perhaps the 550. An embarrassment of riches….
Twenty years from now the average car would be a mostly electric car with self driving capability, and the Republicans then will be touting the kind of successful government-corporate partnerships that led to the ascendancy of the electric car, beginning with the introduction of the Chevy Volt during the time of that much misunderstood , far sighted President, George Bush, who also commenced the equally farsighted bailout of GM.
The M5 is so good it bends space and time. But … launch control in a sedan? It is kind of crazy all the cars that need a race track to find their limits.
I would get in so much trouble … so I’m better off with a mountain bike.
There is absolutely nothing you can do that is legal if you attempt to stretch the capabilities of these cars. Nothing. But if you need to blow away an asshole who isn’t going to let you on the highway? Press the peddle and “he gone”.
And if you have the interest, you can take them to t he local tracks with pro drivers to tell and show how to drive them. I have. Take your blood pressure meds/ and or antianxiety stuff first. before. It’s a rush. An effing rush. I’ll post a video of a friend of mine who races. Accident. Shake you to the core.
Apology accepted and I really do appreciate it–it is a rare thing on the intertubes.
I would counter, in a friendly way, that I don’t think that being provocative to get people steaming actually leads to a serious debate on the issues. I think it just leads to people digging in their heals and escalating the emotions.
I agree: this is serious stuff, and I think it can be debated, and passionately, without it being boring, and without it being provocative just to provoke. I honestly don’t think it is productive, but one’s mileage may vary.
@Doug Mataconis: Where is the mention of the Volt in that Politico article you linked? Otherwise, what is your point: that Obama is pleased the US auto industry is rebounding? What’s wrong with that?
@Doug Mataconis: “it’s”? Wow.
Still eyeballing the Cayman. The house needs new siding first. One of my buddies took me out on the track in his GT3 RS recently, that was fun.
“For the record, my post has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what more than one auto industry expert has called questionable practices by General Motors”
Doug, you’re lying. It was repeatedly pointed out to you that the analysis was FUBAR; you’re reaction was to stick with a position proven false.
@Doug Mataconis: What people want is an acknowledgment that saying there’s a $50k loss per vehicle when the cost will be amortized over time is disingenuous. If you’d at least acknowledge the math and your own bias, you might be able to salvage your credibility.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Fair enough. It’s just a style. Perhaps our experience bases differ, but in my business, it’s only when the competitive and argumentative juices really get flowing that we get down to it and hash it out. Otherwise it’s a bit too gentlemanly. My experience, anyway, would suggest this leads to group think and poor decision making. Just one guys view.
@Doug Mataconis: “I’m sorry. General Motors is always right. Everyone go buy a Volt! Is that the approved propaganda you want from me? ”
Doug, what we want for you is for you to stop lying and stop bullsh*tting and to stop doubling down (McMeganning) when you’re shown to be wrong.
@Chris Lawrence: “As for the profitability or lack thereof of the Volt, the reality is that GM had no business case for developing the vehicle in the first place without the prospect of massive government subsidies.”
@Andre Kenji: Actually, a lot of us doubt that you can get the necessary energy density. There’s a lot of energy packed into hydrocarbons.
There’s a so-called “niche” market for electric vehicles that don’t go that far a day and then can be plugged in at night to recharge. North of Boston is a train station with solar cells on the roof, so a commuter can drive to the train station, plug in during the day, then pick up a freshly-recharged car at night.
@Doug Mataconis: “Denying Obama’s promotion of the Volt is denying reality. If you choose to do that for partisan reasons, I understand. Frankly, it really doesn’t mater to me what Obama thinks about the Volt.It does bother me that he favors artificially subsidizing it’s price by promoting an unnecessary tax credit. ”
More doubling down.
@Doug Mataconis: “In reality, it has nothing to do with the subject matter of that post. ”
Which you got wrong.
@anjin-san: “If only that was the extent of it. A lot of conservatives are rooting for GM to fail – because it would hurt Obama. Oh, and because GM is a nest of dirty commies. ”
The right is hoping that that USA itself fails, because they prosper accordingly (at least, the 1% does; the rest seem to be happy to be miserable, so long as ‘those people’ are beaten).
@de stijl: “For a fairly savvy guy, Doug falls for the obvious RW wurlitzer stuff waaay too often. ”
For a guy who allegedly is a lawyer (and therefore used to dealing with argumentation and very one-sided presentation of a case), Doug falls for RW propaganda far too often.
@Rob in CT: Remember that Toyota ATE the costs of the Prius for a long, long time before it started to catch on.
That’s what subsidies of a new technology are; the idea is that the government supports the dissemination of the technology until it becomes widespread enough that the economies of scale kick in and the subsidies become unnecessary.
The US is able to pretend it doesn’t provide subsidies in areas where the new technology can be used by the military, so we simply pay outrageous prices to the manufacturers “for defense purposes” and throw a blind eye to the fact that we are actually providing subsidies.
Doug, have you ever studied ANYTHING about economics? Because if we were to follow your argument, we wouldn’t have a heck of a lot of technology. You’re going to have to explain how a country without subsidies is going to be able to compete with a country that jump-starts its new technology markets via subsidies.
Certainly context and goals matter. And I would further agree that in, say, a planning meeting if people demure too much that nothing gets done. Of course, context and goals matter as well.
(And I am not trying to be sarcastic, although I am trying to make a point with the following): are you are actually saying that you find condescension a useful business tactic? Because I am guessing that that is not the case. Perhaps I simply operate in a different realm, but I have found that people who patronize or condescend (and goodness knows there are plenty such people in academia) are not especially effective in persuading others (even if they think that they are at a given moment). Certainly, some of this is in the eye of the beholder.
@Doug Mataconis: For the record, my post has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what more than one auto industry expert has called questionable practices by General Motors
For the record, your post has more to do with perpetuating a transparently dishonest right-wing talking point – a lie so obvious and simplistic that a simple two paragraph explanation and example demonstrate that it is completely, utterly, and obviously wrong
A lie which, when its obvious falsity was pointed out to you (in terms even a college sophomore could instantly grasp) you continued to defend, up until it had been so thoroughly and utterly demolished that defending it became impossible, so you simply abandoned the discussion entirely.
In other words, your post has everything to do with politics – water carrying, partisan hack politics at its finest.
@Carson: Dude, you have just managed to regurgitate every single free-energy theory floating out on the Internet. Except for the magic car that runs on water. Why did you leave it out? (And where did you get your science education? From listening to Art Bell?)
P.S. Fuel cells can be used for cars, but are much more efficient as co-gen systems producing both electricity and hot water.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I’ll take your comments under consideration. What is called condescension or provoking by some I call being brutally direct. And it has been my experience that that is how you smoke people out and get their real views. Maybe I need to think about that.
You know by virtue of being a principal on this blog site who I am. You can look up my firms website. There is a tremendous responsibility to perform for my clients. There are no excuses or second chances. We do very, very well for them. But It creates sleepless nights, and It also creates a sort of “take no prisoners” or “no suffering of fools” mentality. How do I tell a retiring teacher “sorry, I lost your money because I was a wilting flower and didn’t speak my mind as vigorously as I knew how?”. Just can’t do it.
So this is what comes out when I comment here. But, admittedly, this is a different venue.
Over at Dave Schulers place I recently got myself into some trouble and was offered a “suggestion” that a certain male appendage needed to be placed down my throat. Humorous, and the commenter was out of control, but perhaps a signal that toning it down is in order.
@Drew: Drew, the problem is: why should any of us listen to an argument from someone who has demonstrated he is a condescending, arrogant, know-it-all prick?
And no, we don’t believe that you actually own a business, either. Everyone’s Ron Johnson on the Internets.
@grumpy realist: The vapor carburetor is getting car owners 50% improvement in gas mileage – see vapor carburetor or Kendall Carb – available at auto parts stores. Also, watch video “Gashole” for the truth about the oil companies’ control of new technology that would reduce consumption of gas.