Electric Loss Leader

huckdud 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.

Thomas Freidman’s Latest Howler

friedman As Alexander Cockburn once observed, the core function of the mainstream news media is to sow confusion where reality is perfectly plain.  Add to this his personal history as a capitalist’s son and husband of a rentier billion-heiress, and it’s little wonder that Thomas Friedman is the tenured professor of the great gibberish machine, the pampered, flattered godfather of the propaganda clown army.

His latest contribution to the jabberwocky effort?  His proposition yesterday that the world is being run by “petro-dictators now telling the world what to do.”

You see here why Friedman has attained such heights within the corporate capitalist spin industry.  It would’ve taken a large committee meeting for days to prepare a more shamelessly Orwellian inversion of basic reality.  Not only does Friedman’s claim reverse the actual past and present relationship between petro-dictators and corporate royalty, but it blithely and thoughtlessly restates the standard overclass insistence that oil, not cars, is our problem.  (One could, of course, also note Friedman’s ongoing delusions about bio-fuels.)

The simple reality that must be kept from view is that cars-first transportation accounts for eight tenths of U.S. petroleum use, and cars-first transportation is the indispensable lifeblood of corporate capitalism.  Oil dictators work for those who dictate transportation policies (and energy wars).  Not the reverse.  Oil will never be demoted unless cars are demoted.

And who are the car-dictators?  Friedman’s own class, of course — the Richistanis who enthroned and employ the world’s petro-dictators; refuse to allow themselves to be mentioned as a possible source of problems; refuse to permit the first hint of a first hint of democratic questioning of auto-centric society, despite its radical and increasingly obvious unsustainability.

Such is the stuff our grandchildren will be barfing about, if we manage to leave them a world still capable of remembering and pondering it.