The selection of the Chevrolet Volt as the North American Car of The Year revives a PR firm’s endeavor to help one of its clients sell cars it has in stock. Offered as blog fodder, it was sent after Rush Limbaugh and George Will criticized Motor Trend’s selection of the Volt as its car of the year and after the magazine’s Detroit Editor, Todd Lassa, posted a response to those two car “experts” at: http://blogs.motortrend.com/rush-judgment-5957.html
Here is the fodder offered by the PR firm:
Motor Trend Names Chevy Volt Car of the Year. Really?
Continuing a tradition of giving Detroit’s more questionable auto offerings their moment in the limelight (remember the K Car or the Dodge Omni?), the judges at Motor Trend have handed Car of the Year honors to the Chevy Volt, a car that isn’t even on sale yet, and won’t be in most parts of the country until perhaps 2012, when GM assures us that it can make more than 10,000 of these semi-practical vehicles a year.
For the moment, let’s forget about the partisan outrage of George Will and Rush Limbaugh, or Motor Trend’s poorly advised rebuttal, and take a look at the Volt for what it is: a $41,000 car that benefits from an optional $490 240-volt charger that costs around $1,475 to install. Federal and local tax breaks could let you get behind the wheel for a mere $35,200. That’s $33,500 for the car and $245 for the charger after rebates, plus that $1,475 installation for the charger. Assuming, of course, that you can find one, which you can’t, unless you live in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Texas or Washington, D.C. and managed to land on the right side of the 1 in 12 odds of earning the privilege to buy one.
GM estimates that 120,000 people have “reserved” the new Volt. Only 55,000 are expected to be on the road by the end of 2011, which means that more than half of those interested in owning one are looking at a two-year wait. It’s much quicker to get the new Bugatti Veryon, but that car only gets 8 mpg city.
What Motor Trend has done, essentially, is hand out the most significant marketing ammunition for any car company to a concept car. The Ford Fusion, Motor Trend’s outgoing Car of the Year, sold 17,362 units in October. It would take GM more than three months, currently, to make enough Volts to meet that demand. They don’t need the marketing support, and until they prove that they can actually build these cars in reasonable numbers and make them reliable they shouldn’t be taking home accolades.
Given that Motor Trend looked at every new car that reached North America this year, there are plenty of other worthy offerings they could have chosen. Critics may be unhappy with the 2011 Jetta, but it’s selling well and landed on the finalist list for North American Car of the Year. So did the Ford Fiesta, Nissan Juke and the Chevrolet Cruze, which is essentially the Volt with a normal engine and availability at your local Chevy dealer.
Apparently 40 miles to the gallon just isn’t sexy enough for Motor Trend, or for the folks who gave the Volt the Green Car of the Year award over something that people can actually buy. Perhaps Ford should limit availability of next year’s electric Focus to fewer than 5,000 models so that they can get a crack at these awards.
The only silver lining in any of this is that the Volt won out over Nissan’s similarly scarce electric LEAF, which lacks a gas-powered generator to keep it moving when the battery runs out. At least the highways in select cities won’t be choked with Chevrolet Volts on the side of the road, accompanied by befuddled drivers uncoiling extension cords and looking for the closest electrical outlet.