Holy smokes, is this ever a bad idea, but given the current mood in Congress, it might just clear the House. The Senate — and President Obama, in the form of a veto — are more likely to balk at killing the critically important electric vehicle credit that’s propping up the industry at a delicate time.
U.S Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a bill on Dec. 30 that calls for amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 “to repeal the credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles.” But that credit effectively takes $7,500 off the price of cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. It obviously is a deciding factor for many buyers who’d otherwise be paying $40,000 and $37,250 (respectively) for these cars.
Now get this: As Autoblog Green has reported, Kelly is a former Chevrolet salesman who worked at his father’s dealership and once served on the board of the Chevrolet Dealers Advertising Association. I’m not sure he’s going to get re-appointed after this. Kelly really seems to hate the Volt in particular. He wrote in a USA Today op-ed, “To put the mainstream market demand for the Volt in perspective, in September, GM sold just 723 Volts. By comparison, 18,097 Chevy Cruzes, 5,246 Chevy Suburbans and 2,171 Chevy Colorado pickups were sold in the same time span.”
But many new models take time to catch on, and the Volt was plagued by supply problems all year. Despite that, more than 1,500 were sold in December, its best month ever and a doubling of the volume Kelly cited. It's worth pointing out that the Volt, made in U.S.A., has outsold the Japanese Nissan Leaf EV (at right above) for three months in a row.
Kelly is definitely not the only conservative going after the Volt. Here are a few quotes:
- Rush Limbaugh: “Folks, of all the cars, no offense, General Motors, please, but of all the cars in the world, the Chevrolet Volt is the Car of the Year? Motor Trend magazine, that’s the end of them.”
- Mitt Romney: “An idea whose time has not come.”
- The Weekly Standard: “Way back in March, I made fun of the Volt for selling 281 units in February. Turns out, February was a good month.”
- National Review: “I would like to know how many of the $45,000 (sic) targeted for sale in the United States are to actual consumers and not the federal and state governments who are buying the cars to fulfill some sort of ‘green’ mandate.”
The problem Kelly and the others have with the Volt is that it has Barack Obama’s fingerprints all over it. That's a reason graphics like the one at left are all over the blogosphere. If the Volt flops, the administration’s investment in the car were wasted, and it’s the political bounty known as Solyndra all over again. Of course, they express it differently, claiming to hate government subsidies. Kelly writes in his op-ed, “When a manufacturer puts politics ahead of market demand, or when the return on investment is measured in terms of political gain rather than financial gain, the results vary drastically….This is not to say I don’t support the development of electric cars, I do — but not at taxpayer expense.”
Kelly, who became wealthy in part by marrying a Phillips oil heiress, apparently doesn’t hate all government subsidies, though. Al Sharpton went after him recently on MSNBC. “It is sad but unsurprising that the Pennsylvania Republican would disparage those who call for an end to [oil] subsidies as engaging in ‘class warfare,’ while at the same time arguing that taxpayers should support the very oil and gas companies he’s invested in because 'we want companies to be profitable',” Sharpton said.
Kelly later claimed that he’d sold his oil stocks, but the timing is somewhat suspicious. I note that Kelly got a $5,000 contribution from the National Automobile Dealers Association, which has fought tooth and nail against electric vehicle mandates.
I don’t think that Kelly will triumph in his attempt to kill EV subsidies, but he’ll probably get some mileage out of it. The last time I looked, his bill didn’t have any co-sponsors. The clamor will die down after the election, when these political barbs will no longer be useful.
Here's Sharpton taking on Kelly: