When I first started writing a book about capitalists’ insistence on cars-first transportation, I tried to figure out who coined the familiar jive-line “Americans are having a love affair with the car.” Striking out myself, I wrote to several leading American historians. It seems nobody knows the answer. There’s little doubt it was industry PR, but the thing seems to have become so natural-sounding that people forgot to keep track of where and when they first heard it.
The latest mutation of that century-old trope comes in a particularly humorous form — a claim on behalf of the Chevy Volt!
Precisely as it idles production of the Volt due to lack of sales, GM breaks out this “Happy Volt Owners” ad series:
There is a world of ridiculousness and overclass chutzpah in each line of this thing. “Adam” says he wakes up every morning thinking about the future, but is obviously either unaware of or untroubled by the fact that the electric motor in his new automobile is actually powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission. He “loves” his Volt, he tells us — twice — but fails to mention its price, where and when (or if) he bought it, or how he uses it. Will it burn down his house at some point after being bumped in a parking lot? “Adam,” though he is supposedly somebody willing to spend $40,000 to “make a statement” about how thoughtful he is, doesn’t trouble himself with such things, apparently.
How nice for “Adam” and the ≈5,000 owners of Volts. GM assures us that, despite their beloved car’s status as about .002 percent (yes, 2/1,000ths of one percent) of all passenger cars now on the road in the United States, they are not just the nation’s but the planet’s happiest drivers. Who’d have guessed?
You heard it there first: Americans are having a love affairs with the Chevy Volt!
The company [GM] is notified of any crashes through its OnStar safety system, and it dispatches a team to drain the batteries within 48 hours. GM said NHTSA didn’t drain the battery packs of energy after the tests, but the automaker acknowledged that it hadn’t told the agency of its procedures back in June when the first fire occurred.
1) GM almost certainly knew these fires would be happening. Otherwise, why would the Drain Teams exist?
2) The Volt has never been a serious proposition. Think about it: How realistic is it to imagine the smooth operation of Drain Teams, if the Volt had actually been a genuine product, rather than mere haloware supporting the continued sales of Silverado pickups? If there were a million Volts out there, rather than 6,000, how expensive would it be for GM to be hiring and managing the hundreds of requisite Drain Teams?
3) There has almost certainly been collusion between GM and the NHTSA to delay release of the news of this issue. The NHTSA’s fire happened in June. Its investigation was acknowledged in late November. What possible reason could explain that gap, other than the obvious one — that the NHTSA sees its mission as assisting car capitalists?
Will any of this corruption have an effect on public policy? Not a chance. Cars are the lifeblood of “our” economy, after all.
Huzzah! GM has now sold 5,003 Chevy Volts in 2011. That’s a whopping five one-hundredths of one percent ( or .0005) of 2011′s total year-to-date sales of 10,503,526 “light vehicles” in the United States.
Meanwhile, with the government having bailed GM out of the cost of developing this pathetic coal-burning boondoggle, the corporation is settling down to reality, where GM now all but openly admits the Volt is nothing more than a halo product/marketing device.
The marketing operates at two levels — mass media and showroom floor.
In the mass media, GM continues to spend exorbitant (probably a record, if judged by marketing dollar per Volt sold) sums on Volt commercials and ads.
The mass media marketing strategy? Greenwash plus techwash:
Volt marketing chief Tony DiSalle says this one car could lift the whole company. “When consumers see that, they quickly go to the notion that you are smart enough to design and engineer and manufacture a vehicle that’s this capable and this innovative, [and] you just must make better vehicles overall,” he says.
The showroom strategy, meanwhile, is straight-up bait-and-switch:
[Chevy] Cruze sales, by contrast [to below-anemic Volt sales], are on fire. The compact was the nation’s 11th-best-selling car last month, more popular than the Toyota Corolla. And Reuss says he thinks he knows one reason why: Customers lured to the showroom to check out the Volt are leaving with keys to a new $16,720 Cruze. That’s the Cruze shown at top; the Volt to the right.
“The Volt is leading to a lot of Cruze sales,” he told a group of Los Angeles-based reporters last week. Customers “went to see the Volt, but not everyone can buy the Volt.” Reuss says he insisted that every Chevrolet dealer get at least one Volt, knowing it will work as a lure even if no one is buying it. [Source: USA Today]
I would add that the other halo effect of this whole scam is an extension of Tony DiSalle’s point about so-called “consumers” thinking that if “you are smart enough to design and engineer and manufacture a vehicle that’s this capable and this innovative, you just must make better vehicles overall.” The larger rotten presumption they are undoubtedly encouraging is the notion that if they can make a Volt, then cars-first transportation must be sustainable and just fine.
You can tell how much trouble they’re in from just how far and how hard they now have reach.
Of course. GM is now promising the next round of Volt hybrids will include a minivan model. Of course.
Capitalist priorities don’t change. “Mini car, mini profit,” as Hank Ford II once incautiously admitted in public.
And past capitalist priorities built this cars-first network of towns and strip malls and exurbs. Cars-first transportation, thanks to the sheer nature of automobiles, radically balloons all these spaces. All the ballooned spaces in turn require not just cars, but big cars, as traveling at high speeds over rough, crossing roads makes tiny cars especially dangerous to their occupants.
So, of course. Mini-vans and pickups will continue to to devour a huge chunk of the insane amount of energy we continue to squander on transportation in corporate capitalist America.
Note: Dig the “gas 2.0″ source here. These guys think new cars and allegedly “new” fuels for them somehow amount to a “world coming to terms with its oil addiction.” Of course, of course.
Only 27 miles before the gasoline engine took over from the “electric” one.
MPG? Here are the words of the reviewer:
Okay, so here’s the bit of information you’ve been waiting for: on the 239.7 mile trip from Washington DC to New York City we burned 6.1 gallons of gas. That’s 38.8 MPG, a figure that’s pretty good for a gas-powered economy car but, for a $41,000 car that’s supposed to make the world a better place for our children… well, it’s a little unimpressive to say the least.
The results, in other words, are in: As predicted here, this thing is halo-ware. Nothing more.
The arrival of greenwashing as a top priority in corporate capitalism’s core industrial complex is expanding and refining the art and science of halo-ware as a 21st-century marketing strategy. “Halo products” are newfangled loss-leaders designed to provide cover for business-as-usual.
Two times in just the past week, Automotive News, an insider gossip and news publication, has mentioned the h-word in its reporting on forthcoming “green cars”:
October 1, reporting on the pathetic gas-electric hybrid Chevy Volt:
The Volt is being marketed as a “halo car” to underscore GM’s green credentials.
October 4, reporting on the “fashion-statement” (translation: over-priced, under-efficient) subcompact Fiat 500:
Jesse Toprak, analyst for TrueCar.com, believes the 500′s Italian design will help those Chrysler dealers who win the franchise to lure new customers. “The halo effect of this car and the utility of this car will grab younger clientele and early adopters,” he says.
“Green cars,” of course, are not the only major form of halo-ware. “Green energy” is right there, too, if the truth be told.
Ruling social classes age. After they get their boots squarely on enough necks, they begin to flatter themselves for it. Eventually, as memory of reality recedes, senility sets in, and they lose the capacity to do anything creative or flexible or realistic. Boondoggles become the only game in town.
The U.S. overclass entered into terminal dementia beginning in the late 1970s, and is now utterly braindead.
Consider this post from the editors of Investor’s Business Daily. In it, the IBD editors rightly disparage the Chevy Volt as a hopeless boondoggle.
But they also manage to say that the Volt is the product of “government stupidity,” rather than capitalists’ long-standing and utterly unchallenged dictatorship over transportation policy in the United States:
It wasn’t exactly Michael Dukakis riding in a tank wearing a Snoopy helmet, but it was close. President Obama, who reportedly hasn’t driven an inch himself since taking office, visited a GM plant in Hamtrack near Detroit on Friday to drive a Chevy Volt 10 feet off an assembly line. It was a perfect image, as the American economy is being driven off a cliff by this White House.
The administration, at taxpayers’ expense, has labored mightily and brought forth an Edsel that needs to be recharged. If a camel is a horse designed by committee, the Chevy Volt is a car designed by government. It is a perfect example of industrial policy run amok, of what happens when government picks winners and losers. Without heavy subsidies and government ownership, it never would have been built.
Aside from being absolutely false — the Volt was designed by GM, of course, the self-flattering blindness on display here is simply epic. Whatever one thinks of the cliche about camels being bad horses, the inarguable fact is that the automobile is capitalists’ idea of a horse, with all that implies about capitalists’ idea of energy efficiency and safety and sustainability in human mobility systems.
As this shows, our out-of-control moneyed overlords are so far gone on their own BS, they can’t even tell when they’re plainly tying their own nooses. The Chevy Volt is a sign of corporate capitalist dominance and desperation, as is market-worshipper Barack Obummer’s sponsorship and pimping of it.
If the public ever gains control of transportation policy, we will have to show these heedless murderers what government’s real idea of a horse is.
Forty-one thousand dollars. Time required to recharge the massive battery pack? Unless you are an early buyer who gets gifted one of the federal government’s $2,500+ home super-chargers (or buy one yourself): ten hours. Ten hours plugged in to move the thing “up to” 40 miles on electricity. That “up to” is there because using the stereo, lights, heater, or air conditioner — using the car, in other words — will reduce the all-electric range.
All this for a mere year’s worth of full-time exploited labor (more than that for women), or the price of three compact all-gasoline cars that get roughly the same gas mileage and make no huge new demands on the Earth’s limited supply of lithium.
Said it before: ROFLMFAO.
Remember when the Chevy Volt was going to have only an electric engine?
Turns out, the Volt is merely GM’s version of a hybrid, though the state-capitalist organization protests that entirely accurate label. Accepting it would speak volumes both to the epic failures of General Motors and to the host of problems with the effort to preserve cars-first transportation by eventually converting vehicles to all-electric fueling.
The Volt will go “up to” 40 miles before its gas engine takes over, “though aggressive driving, along with extensive use of air conditioning, heat or headlights will lower that number.” Price? $40,000.
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