1. Volt Loses Charge
All this conspiracy talk about Chevy Volt fires is really burning us up. The problem with GM's (GM - Get Report) all-important electric car is clearly not a faulty battery -- it's that nobody is buying the darned thing!
GM CEO Daniel Akerson cruised over to Capitol Hill this week to defend the automaker's response to a handful of Volt battery fires last June before the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially started looking into the matter last November and ended its investigation last week, concluding that the Volt and other electric cars pose the same fire risks as gasoline-powered vehicles.In his written testimony, Akerson stressed that fires only resulted when government regulators put the battery "through lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world." Memo to Mr. Akerson: We're not talking about the "real world." We're talking about Congress here. Seriously, only on Planet Washington would a hearing be titled, "Volt Vehicle Fire: What did NHTSA Know and When Did They Know It?" Will you guys get real? Just because the government still owns 26.5% of the company's shares post-bailout, this does not automatically mean that President Obama is trying to sweep safety risks under the floor mat. If you remember, it took 10 months for the NHTSA and NASA to conclude that Toyota's (TM) so-called accelerator problems were the result of heavy-footed drivers, not badly-wired cars. Heck, compared to that investigation, this Volt inquiry was completed in no-time-flat. In the end, that wild goose chase caused Toyota to recall -- unnecessarily in most cases -- over 7.5 million automobiles. And even if the Volt was unsafe -- which it's not -- GM can only dream of a recall that big. The Volt sold a mere 7,671 units last year, well below GM's 10,000 target. So what held sales back? Was it the bad press over the batteries or some other quality issue? Not at all. As TheStreet contributor Anton Wahlman adroitly points out, the flaming battery issue has been a non-factor and the Volt has the single highest customer satisfaction rating - 93% according to Consumer Reports just two months ago - of any car in the market, even higher than the Porsche 911 with 91%. The real culprits, says Wahlman, are the bureaucrats in California's Democrat-dominated government who victimized the Volt by making the 2011 model ineligible to apply for California carpool lane status. As a result, all the buyers in the biggest plug-in car market in the country ran out and bought Nissan (NSANY.PK) LEAFs instead. Yep, the Volt is quickly losing its charge because of baseless bipartisan bickering. Forgive us for feeling less than shocked. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.