Gov’t subsidies for Chevy Volt up to $250,000 per car?

posted at 11:25 am on December 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

If you thought that the subcompact electric Chevy Volt was overpriced at an MSRP of $40,000 — which after a point-of-sale tax credit comes to $32,500 — you haven’t seen anything yet.  According to a Mackinac Center study of government subsidies throughout the manufacturing and distribution chain, the actual cost of the vehicle is almost $300,000 — with a quarter-million dollars of taxpayer subsidies going into every vehicle (via the Drudge Report and David Freddoso):

Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it – a total of $3 billion altogether, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Hohman looked at total state and federal assistance offered for the development and production of the Chevy Volt, General Motors’ plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. His analysis included 18 government deals that included loans, rebates, grants and tax credits. The amount of government assistance does not include the fact that General Motors is currently 26 percent owned by the federal government. …

GM has estimated they’ve sold 6,000 Volts so far. That would mean each of the 6,000 Volts sold would be subsidized between $50,000 and $250,000, depending on how many government subsidy milestones are realized.

If battery manufacturers awarded incentives to produce batteries the Volt may use are included in the analysis, the potential government subsidy per Volt increases to $256,824. For example, A123 Systems has received extensive state and federal support, and bid to be a supplier to the Volt, but the deal instead went to Compact Power. The $256,824 figure includes adding up the subsidies to both companies.

The $3 billion total subsidy figure includes $690.4 million offered by the state of Michigan and $2.3 billion in federal money. That’s enough to purchase 75,222 Volts with a sticker price of $39,828.

One would expect that the per-unit cost of the subsidies would decrease significantly if the car began selling in large numbers.  Unfortunately for GM and the Obama administration (a redundancy these days), USA Today reports this morning that the Volt has fizzled, as has the enthusiasm for electric cars in general:

A year after the first two plug-in electric cars from major makers went on sale, buyers appear put off by high sticker prices — even with federal subsidies — and, for the moment, by more-stable gasoline prices.

The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt also have had their own issues. For owners of the Leaf, and other electric-only vehicles, there still are relatively few places to plug in and recharge away from home, limiting use. And the Volt, which has a backup gas engine to run a generator for extended range, is under the shadow of a government safety probe of why its big lithium-ion battery pack could catch fire days or even weeks after suffering severe crash damage.

Meanwhile, some start-up makers of electric cars, including the Think City car and the egg-shaped Aptera, have gone bust. Others have hit pot holes and delays in their drive to get plug-in cars in front of buyers. Even some major automakers have had hiccups developing new plug-ins. …

But even some avid electric-car fans say they aren’t all that surprised at muted mainstream interest in the initial models of electrics. “I think the public is just not really ready for them — and I don’t think (the cars) are ready for the public,” says Art Spinella, an electric-car fan who is president of CNW Research, a tracker of auto-sales trends.

That isn’t stopping other manufacturers from getting in on the electric-car “boom”:

The report said General Motors    (NYSE: GM) has fallen well short of its goal of selling 10,000 Volts by the end of this year, and Nissan has sold less than 9,000 Leaf electric cars.

Despite the lower-than-expected interest in electrics, the report noted, Ford Motor Co.   (NYSE: F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) are moving forward with plans to introduce their own electric vehicles next year.

Now, why would two auto manufacturers jump into a market with almost no demand and a high failure rate?  Could it be because they’re looking for the same kind of subsidies that gives them somewhere around $250,000 per vehicle before the car is ever sold?

Update: I mistakenly wrote “Chevy Colt” in the first paragraph instead of Chevy Volt.  As one commenter recalled, the Dodge Colt was a pretty good car.  I should also note that when I wrote “high failure rate,” I was referring to the sales and not the cars themselves.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Ah to study history,British Leyland,sold well for stodgy cars.The market did not understand that each car came equipped with electrical stuff from the prince of darkness.
Harry Potter should have come on the scene sooner and each car would have come with a wand for rapid transport around the Isle.
The public is just too stupid the see the Electric Edsel as an unprecedented,historic, something or other,whatever.

Col.John Wm. Reed on December 21, 2011 at 2:56 PM

$250,000 per car is puny. Afterall, not only is ths government money thrown out to waste, but it’s Obama’s government money thrown out to waste at record numbers. Let’s see if we can jack that number up to at least $500,000.

Go Obama!

(Please note the sarcasm)

Darren on December 21, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Well, if there’s no hot air coming out of the vents, the only other way to defog/defrost the windows would be if ALL of the windows have electric heating lines embedded in them. So hows that going to work in northern climates, and how much mileage would THAT take off the driving range?

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Those kinds of questions are verboten. Just buy the car an no questions asked. If you question the car’s integrity, then you question Barry’s integrity.

timberline on December 21, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Keep in mind the only successful electric cars produced to a government design are still on the moon. $38 million for 4 cars. 40 years ago.

And they are still way cooler than the Volt.

BobMbx on December 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

timberline on December 21, 2011 at 3:00 PM

I’ve already reported myself to Attack watch…..

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

After 100 years of electric car development in this nation…the 40 miles range is the same.

trs on December 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Keep in mind the only successful electric cars produced to a government design are still on the moon. $38 million for 4 cars. 40 years ago.

And they are still way cooler than the Volt.

BobMbx on December 21, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Of course the shipping costs for those cars were astronomical….

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 3:31 PM

and they were off-road capable…..

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 3:32 PM

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 3:32 PM

Convertible (literally, like a Total Gym..just fold it up when you’re done)
Satellite radio
Two seater
All Wheel Drive
Integrated Roll Bar

A vehicle way before its time.

BobMbx on December 21, 2011 at 3:42 PM

hurdent on December 21, 2011 at 2:51 PM

I was just told that there is a “comfort” mode that starts the engine enough to run a heating element if the car (and batteries) are too cold. So that would defrost the windows. However, that kinda defeats the purpose of an electic car if the engine has to run…

Meric1837 on December 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Might be a bit over the top, but I agree with the Chief Engineer of Audi, Volt, a car for idiots. It is not the business of government to drive innovation, its the business of business and consumers. We will have alternate motor fuel/drive systems when they make ecomonic and practical sense. The last thing we should expect from Washington (especially under this dim bulb) is sense.

StevC on December 21, 2011 at 4:04 PM

I was just told that there is a “comfort” mode that starts the engine enough to run a heating element if the car (and batteries) are too cold. So that would defrost the windows. However, that kinda defeats the purpose of an electic car if the engine has to run…

Meric1837 on December 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Right – so what it comes down to is the electric cars still need some form of gas powered motor to be useable all year round in most of the US.

I’ve done operational and systems requirements/engineering analysis most of my career – something the backers of electric cars and alternative energy clearly don’t understand.

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 4:18 PM

One thing not mentioned in the Volt and other electric car sales numbers is how many of these cars are going to the government, like the 70 in NYC.

http://www.autoblog.com/2011/07/13/nyc-fleet-adds-70-plug-in-vehicles-including-chevy-volt-cop-car/

My guess is the government is accounting for at least 1/2 of the Volt and other electric car sales.

JeffinSac on December 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM

That is one hell of a Trabant. Yet the Trabbie didn’t explode on my many trips to Dresden in the early 1990s. Stank, but didn’t fireball.

AshleyTKing on December 21, 2011 at 5:57 PM

A very expensive BBQ grill.

Alferd Packer on December 21, 2011 at 6:12 PM

So, for only about $35k you can get a car that’s “worth” almost $300k!

Wow, what a government program.

Oh wait…that’s MY money in that $250k!

Funny how people forget where the tax dollars come from…

ProfShadow on December 21, 2011 at 6:18 PM

A very expensive BBQ grill.

Alferd Packer on December 21, 2011 at 6:12 PM

and a mobile one at that – at least until you fire it up for the first time…..

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 6:26 PM

After 100 years of electric car development in this nation…the 40 miles range is the same.

trs on December 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Sure, and since then we have all these wonderful computers and programs…so, I don’t get the problem?

Gee, couldn’t be that we’re not any smarter than our forebears a century ago, could it? All these Americans that can’t read, find their own state on a map, think Pearl Harbor was bombed during the Civil War, or do simple times tables are surely no indication that America went down the wrong road at some point?

Ah, well…they couldn’t listen to those hot Billy Murray tunes on their i-Pods back then, so there! We won!

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 21, 2011 at 6:27 PM

I believe we are on the fast track to the world of the movie “Idiocracy”.

dentarthurdent on December 21, 2011 at 6:29 PM

How ’bout Obama just cut me a check for $250,000 and he can keep the Volt?

racquetballer on December 21, 2011 at 8:40 PM

a steal of a deal at twice the price.

acyl72 on December 22, 2011 at 7:47 AM

a steal of a deal at twice the price.
acyl72 on December 22, 2011 at 7:47 AM

Well, someone is getting robbed that’s for sure – and I’d say it’s the taxpayers.

dentarthurdent on December 22, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Comment pages: 1 2