Back during the Superbowl there was a moment when I was so shocked that I nearly spilled my bean dip. It was an ad for a car nobody wants, costs too much, was currently unavailable, and is heavily subsidized; the Chevy Volt.
I shouted in dismay:
“Did the government bail out that’s coming out of my taxes (and my kid’s debt) just pay to advertise an electric car that’s not actually for sale? Did they do this in the most expensive time slot in God’s creation?”
The answer, of course, was yes. Nothing is so stupid that folks won’t spend other people’s money on it. GM used “free government unicorn money” to advertise the Chevy Volt during the Superbowl halftime show.
“But Curmudgeon,” the faithful might opine, “it’s not about cars. It’s about making green technology available for people. It’s about jobs.”
The hapless Volt is/was/and will be nothing more than a gaping maw of suck. But that doesn’t mean unusual vehicles are doomed. Innovation comes from all around the world…just not Government subsidy. Below the fold I use aristocratic British vehicles and Nazi military designs as examples of batshit crazy ideas that turn a profit, right now, all across America, every stinking day. The rent seeking subsidy harvesters in Detroit could learn a thing or two from them.
But first…lets bash the Volt good and hard. How have people reacted to their subsidized “green technology”:
Well at least it’s made Buck Rodgers fantasies come true:
A mere 35 miles without burning gas. A mule can do that! Color me unimpressed.
But I’m being too harsh? At least all this tremendous expense has made the dream of an electric car available to anyone who wants it:
Once again…I’m terribly underwhelmed. So far the Volt is available in half the U.S. and they’ve sold a handful of them. They’ve sold one Volt for every 78,820 residents. I suppose we could car pool?
And the jobs:
A thousand green unicorn jobs. To sell four thousand cars. That’s four cars per employee? Really shoving them out the door eh?
Now let’s compare the Volt to the most ridiculous vehicles I can imagine:
The Bentley Continental GT weighs 5,000 pounds. It has an array of engine options ranging from “huge” to “gargantuan”. It can accelerate fast enough to make a Chevy Volt piss itself. It will set you back between $250,000 and $310,000.
Al Gore loses one hit point every time a Bentley engine is started.
Sales for this gold plated vehicular blow job must be almost zero. Nope:
So the most pretentious car on God’s green earth, which costs more than my house and a six month bender in Vegas combined, is underselling Government Motor’s heavily subsidized (as seen on TV!) Volt by 30%. Ever seen a Bentley ad? They don’t need ’em!
And the jobs?
What’s this? A gold plated rolling money pit is only slightly underselling the imaginary electric car and yet it’s employing more people? Unpossible!
Conclusion: making an overpriced British rolling codpiece is employing more people than the shovel ready Volt. Despite the fact that only coke addled rock stars can afford them, they’re shipping vehicles at a similar rate while turning a profit.
Now lets compare the heavily subsidized Chevy Volt to a vehicle that was 100% subsidized for several decades:
“The Ural is a heavy, 40-horsepower motorcycle whose two cylinders jut sideways from the frame. It is modeled after a late-1930s BMW sidecar bike called the R71, which Nazi Germany provided to the Soviet Union after the countries signed a nonaggression pact in 1939. When the Nazis broke this pact and invaded, the Russians used the bike to fight them.”
Yes folks I’m going to compare Obama’s Green Jobs High Tech Incubator to a sidecar carrying motorcycle that was part of a trade dispute between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. (Think you’ll find news like that on National Public Radio?)
Just for the record I’ve test driven a Ural. (Nobody would let me near a Bentley!) Ural motorcycles really are 1930’s technology combined with Soviet command economy lack of quality. You might have forgotten how much cars have improved in the last 50 years. The Ural will remind you. It handles like a tractor, accelerates like slug, shifts like a screw driver shoved into a pencil sharpener, sounds like a lawnmower, and looks so ugly that it exceeds both Nazi and Soviet ugly to create a hybrid anomaly of ultimate hideousness. Need I mention that it doesn’t have frilly gadgets? There are no cupholders in the same time zone as a Ural’s driver seat. In fact, it doesn’t have doors or a roof. (I’m comparing the Volt to a machine that lacks a damn roof! How can the Volt lose?)
When the Soviets collapsed the government’s motorcycle factory was dead in the water. So they adapted, went private, and found investors. They’re happily selling these oddballs to Americans who pay freakish prices for a bike that’s a meat grinder on wheels compared to a standard Yamaha. No advertising during the Superbowl was needed!
How about sales and availability:
“Before the recent recession, Irbit sold 650 Urals a year in the United States, and says it is on track to reach that level again this year, through 48 dealers around the country. A low-end Ural-sidecar combo sells for about $10,000. Over all, the factory plans to build 1,100 units in 2011.”
So there you have it. A Soviet factory went free market with a 1930’s war motorcycle and they’re doing fine. They’re selling in 48 states compared to the Volts 27 states, they’re shipping about a quarter of the Volt’s numbers, and they’re making a profit.
Imagine that!?! Soviet factory workers making war machines and a niche producer of wealth wagons for the British aristocracy can sell nation wide and make a profit doing it. Subsidized green jobs rainbow cars can’t.
You’d have to drink deeply of the Kool-Aid to be surprised by this. Anyone who tries to use a Superbowl Ad to overcome basic economics is inherently clueless.
P.S. I’m correct in describing the Ural as mechanically archaic but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I really love to own one. Now that I think about it I really like Bentleys too. How is it that everyone but Detroit makes vehicles that appeal to my Curmudgeonly heart?