Bob Lutz Responds to the Spread of False Chevy Volt Information

By · February 02, 2012

Bob Lutz with Chevy Volt

Bob Lutz defends the Chevy Volt after the recent spread of misinformation.

Conservative automotive product guru Bob Lutz sounded off in response to last week's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, which focused on the potential fire risks associated with the Chevrolet Volt—and the steady stream of misinformed anti-Volt rhetoric spewed by Fox News and other media.

Lutz, former General Motors vice chairman, wrote an exclusive column for Forbes taking direct aim at the politically motivated false allegations. Lutz's article, entitled "Chevy Volt and the Wrong-Headed Right," doesn't mince words. In his typical style of brusque bravado (and great wit, I might add), Lutz took umbrage at characterizations of the Volt as a government-funded project by "an army of evil enviro-Nazis, intent on forcing vehicle electrification on a good-ole’-boy, V8-lovin’ populace" and a "failed Socialist-collectivist flop." He sets the record straight with the fact that the $7,500 EV tax credit was enacted under the Bush administration.

The Oscar for totally irresponsible journalism has to go to The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, with, as its key guest, Lou Dobbs. Amid much jocular yukking, the Volt was depicted as a typical federal failure. In attempting to explain why Chevy has sold fewer than 8,000 Volts, Dobbs states, flatly, "It doesn’t work." He elaborates, "It doesn’t go fast and go far on electricity. What happens is it catches fire," adding that Chevy has recalled some 8,000 Volts. Bill O’Reilly, nodding approvingly, helpfully interjects: "So they’ve recalled cars that haven’t been sold." Boiled down to the subtext, Dobbs’ message was this: "All Volts catch fire, and therefore all Volts have been recalled." That simply isn’t the case.

Lutz seems most irked by how attacks aimed at President Obama ultimately undermine American innovation and ingenuity—and domestic production of electric cars as a means for improving the economy and putting Americans back to work.

What on Earth is wrong with the Conservative media movement that it feels it’s OK to spread false information, OK to damage the reputation of perhaps the finest piece of mechanical technology our country has produced since the space shuttle, OK to hurt an iconic American company that is roaring back to global preeminence, OK to hurt American employment in Hamtramck, Mich., as long as it damages the Obama administration’s reputation?

While Lutz says that he shares the Republican's goal of damaging the Obama administration's reputation, he doesn't back destroying "credibility through the expedient spreading of untruths." In fact, Maximum Bob—who infamously described Global Warming as a "crock of shit"—says now that he's embarrassed to describe himself as a Conservative.

This doesn't mean that Lutz is ready to give up on his political affiliations or his doubts about Global Warming. Giving a nod to his Conservative media brethren, he writes, "Come on, you guys. Shape up! There’s plenty of legitimate fodder out there. Let’s leave the 'invention of facts' to the left-wing climate-change alarmists."

These jabs notwithstanding, Lutz deserves the admiration of EV supporters of all political persuasions for using his prestige to make one salient point crystal clear. "On average, 278,000 cars with gasoline engines caught fire in the US each year between 2003 and 2007, according to the National Fire Protection Association," he writes. "No factory-produced electric vehicle has ever caught fire, to the best of my knowledge."


· · 6 years ago

I'm starting to wonder if journalists are the only people watching the O'Rielly Factor. Nobody ever talks about it and I only read about it. It's my guess that the show generates ad revenue by creating news stories for other shows, papers, and networks to report. How many people depend on the O'Rielly Factor for news to report? It must be a ton. :D

· · 6 years ago

@ tterbo - Sadly Fox's ratings are off the chart. And the O'Rielly Factor is the most popular Fox show. Every major Fox show has higher ratings than any MSNBC show. And all the major MSNBC shows have higher ratings than any of the CNN shows. Of the people who still get their opinions from cable TV, Fox reigns supreme. And Rush does the same for radio.

So these kinds of things have to be taken seriously or we will find ourselves shoveling coal into our car's boiler one day.

It is a good thing that Lutz got out there with this message as I think he has some pull in those circles. Maybe they will back off a little now.

· Arnie Carlsen (not verified) · 6 years ago

All I can say about these so called "reporters of the news" that I bought my 2012 just before Christmas and I have only put two tanks of gas (18 gals) in it - that's putting on it over 2.5K in mileage. So since the media wants to be "makers of news" rather than "reporters of news" I say - take that! Oh by the way, my car has not caught fire nor have I bought a fire extinguisher for it. Keep going Chevy! However, I do have three suggestions for it. 1) Put solar panel in the roof, 2) Give the Navigation System the ability to operate when the car is moving if there is someone in the passenger seat, and lastly - from my kids 3) The system should have HAL's voice rather than music like a computer.

· · 6 years ago

Anyone who gets their car information from popular news shows like the O'Reily Factor, or ANY show on the networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox), or the cable news channels (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, HLN, etc.), is a fool. These people know NOTHING about cars, literally nothing.

· · 6 years ago

What is surreal to me - something I've not mentioned out-loud before - is that I've always considered huge companies like GM to be the definition of "conservative" for lack of a better label. The whole "Mom and pop and Chevrolet" thing has been batted about since the beginning of time. What's good for GM is good for America! GM just makes the cars that Americans want. GM was so conservative that they refused to make those sissy, tree-hugging hybrids until the Japanese had completely cornered the market. They even managed to make a family car out of a military utility vehicle. How much more country-loving can you get? Yet as soon as the bailout happened... as soon as the Volt started selling, suddenly conservatives had a burning need to hate GM, and specifically the Volt. It was like watching them eat their young.

But maybe I've been misguided all this time? Did anybody else see it like that?

· · 6 years ago

So the right wing echo chamber is pointed at Bob's little baby, the Chevy Volt. Seems to me Lutz lacks any empathy for others who also fall under the right wing media daily attacks. Lutz is saying, "Your attacks on everyone else are okay, but your attack on my Volt are totally unfounded!" Bullshit Bob.
How do you think climatologist feel Bob?
How do you think young woman, of reproductive age, feel Bob?
How do you think union workers feel Bob?
How do you think muslims in America feel Bob?
How do you think poor people feel Bob?
How do you think blacks feel Bob?

· · 6 years ago

Right on the money, Indy.

Isn't that the currently typical way though? As long as it isn't about me, I shouldn't have to care about it?

· · 6 years ago

Here comes our crazy uncle Lutz the Lunatic again. Deniers like him get zero respect from me. They have their hands dipped in blood of the 5 or 6 Billion people that AGW will claim this century under BAU.

As to Fos news and who gets news from there. A recent Pew (IIRC) survey found that Democrats & Independants have a very low opinion of Fox - they don't trust it. Republicans OTOH trust only Fox.

So, we have in this country, two sets of people (Rs and D+I) who really live in separate worlds. They "beleive" in separate "facts". Yes, the country is completely polarized.

· · 6 years ago

This was just posted on our Facebook page:

"Well, I am conservative and I have a 2012 Chevy Volt since November 14 - and have not purchased one gallon of gas - have driven 1700 miles back and forth to work - clean air, no gas, can't give a rats behind about the politics - Love, love, love this car! I drive it, plug it in, and drive some more. . Join me."

· · 6 years ago

Outside of Fox and its influence there are conservatives who are for EVs because getting the energy to power our cars from the grid would allow the US to be free of our dependancy on foreign oil. That dependancy makes us weak. So EVs do appeal to certain thoughtful defense orientated conservatives. And if the US did not import any foreign oil our trade deficit would go away, making America financially strong. This appeals to a lot of the money orientated conservatives. EVs have the potential to help pull the country together a little. At least the ones that don't watch to Fox.

As far as the people who do watch Fox: it is hard to get through to them with logic unless you have long blonde hair and are reading from a teleprompter.

What this world needs more of: young black female muslim climatologists of reproductive age who are unionized. Hopefully we can improve the economy so they are no longer poor.

· · 6 years ago

The reason why we need more climatologists: if we had more of those climatologists maybe the facts behind global warming would get out there more.

Anyone who does a little web search can find the data on CO2 increase and the corresponding rise in temperature. And the photos of the ice retreating all over the world. You don't have to have a degree in science or engineering to see the dramatic difference in the ice over the last few decades. And the increase in ocean level in the last decade exceeds that of the last century. And the greater extremes we are already seeing in our weather. These things are quantifiable and they are happening. The evidence is all over the place.

As bad as all of that is, the thing that worries me most about CO2 is not climate change. It is ocean acidification. When CO2 is produced it will spend quite a bit of time in the atmosphere but eventually it will go into solution in the ocean. When it does that it becomes carbonic acid and the acidity of the ocean is increased. Already the acidity of the surface of the ocean has increased 30%, according to NASA. A university professor did an experiment where he varied the acidity of ocean water and put plankton in that water to see at what acidity level do the calcium shells on the one celled plankton disolve. It turns out that it is an acidity level that we could hit in the next few decades. Plankton are the base of the ocean food chain and produce the largest single contribution of oxygen for this planet.

That is what is really at stake here. That is why we need to govern our actions with science and knowledge and engineer our world instead of haphazardly let things go in whatever direction near term profits take us.

· · 6 years ago

I am no fan of Fox nor any of the other major networks for that matter. (We don't even own a TV.) Global warming is real, and is a significant reason for promoting EVs.

But some of the "politically correct" statements above remind me of some of the reasons I am not a Democrat. The world needs more good climatologists, period. I really couldn't care less if they had green skin and three eyes, etc. They can believe in the tooth fairy religion as long as their work is not compromised and they aren't advocating subversive tooth decay.

· · 6 years ago

Negative media is apparently having an effect.

In its 2012 Car Brand Perception Survey, Consumer Reports added a couple of questions to assess "America’s pulse" on plug-in vehicles. In particular, Consumer Reports asked the general public questions pertaining mainly to plug-in vehicle safety.

Of the surveyed group, 43 percent of respondents believe that plug-in vehicles feel are as safe as gasoline-fueled automobiles and 20 percent deemed them safer. However, 28 percent fell that electrified vehicles are less safe than their gas-fueled counterparts.

While limited range was the most prevalent (77 percent) concern, fire risk during charging was a concern voiced by nearly half (44 percent) of the respondents. Other safety-related concerns included pedestrian safety due to silent operation (40 percent concerned), crash protection (39 percent) and post-crash fire concerns (35 percent), which ties directly to recent Chevy Volt incidents. At the bottom of the listed concerns were electric shock (30 percent) and accident avoidance (29 percent).

According to Consumer Reports, most of these responses reveal that the general public is misinformed regarding plug-in vehicles. As Consumer Reports so accurately states, "Exposure to such vehicles and more education should help consumers better understand that electrified cars have been proven safe alternatives to traditional cars. It is a shame the Volt incidents likely misguided consumers and potentially impacted the short-term adoption rate for this promising new technology."

· Thinking Conservative (not verified) · 6 years ago

Truth is not liberal or conservative. Saving money and the envronment ARE or SHOULD BE conservative issues. Not purchasing pretroleum products from hateful, totalitarian governments is patriotic. This has sadly become a divisive, political issue, when it should not be.

· · 6 years ago

>> Saving money and the envronment ARE or SHOULD BE conservative issues. <<

They should be liberal issues as well. Let's just call them "human issues" and be done with it. I've known more then one Prius-driving conservative who is deathly afraid that somebody will think that he's trying to "save the environment." And I know Prius-driving liberals who fear somebody will think they're only driving a fuel-sipping car to save money.

Man. Could we just get a grip?

· Thinking Conservative (not verified) · 6 years ago

I agree with you. I'm a conservative who includes conserving the environment as part of my belief structure, and I question why this viewpoint is not shared by more conservatives, or maybe it is, but we just don't hear about it as much as we hear about conservatives who don't care about conserving the environment. It's just me wondering out loud. Enjoy the site immensely.

· · 6 years ago

What irks me to no end is that "enviro" or "environmentalist" or "greenie" are all now commonly used as disparaging terms, and usually said with great vitrol.

· George B (not verified) · 6 years ago

@darelldd: Very true. I spent couple of days perusing comments on the Yahoo article about Phil Sadow, aka Ingineer. The vitriol and negative sentiment against all things green is palpable. The same can be said of site like Jalopnik and even boingboing. If this is reflective of the general mood in the electorate, there might be even less political clout to address environmental issues than we have now.

· · 6 years ago

Unfortunately, I generally agree with the vitriolic attitudes towards environmentalists who, in general, only seem to know how to destroy the fabric of society, not build it stronger.
I think the recent efforts by environmental groups in California to block solar collection in the desert at costs to that fledgling industry of $ millions, is a prime example of their dangerous nearsightedness.
The regular anti-EV stance of the Sierra Club because of their equating of electricity with coal shows the general lack of any attempt at critical thinking.
Fortunately, in the latter case, it appears that the efforts of a few dedicated Plug-in America folks have been fairly successful at slapping a little sense into the Sierra Club recently.

· · 6 years ago

@ex -

So you define an environmentalist as somebody who destroys the fabric of society? You feel that most environmentalists work toward that goal? Who then, are the stewards of our environment? Is it those pillars or our community who build our society stronger with cries of "drill baby drill?"

Are you not an environmentalist? Am *I* not an environmentalist? People who only know how to destroy the fabric of society are not environmentalists.

Claiming that environmentalists "in general, only seem to know how to destroy the fabric of society" is akin to saying that clergymen, in general, molest young boys.

· decaffeinated (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ex-EV1 driver

Dude, your attitude really frosts my chops.

Probably the most unsung enviro group on the planet is the Nature Conservancy. Do you think they are destroying the fabric of society? Or how about the only group with the balls to take on Japanese whalers, you know, Greenpeace? Do you think they are destroying the fabric of society? Or would you rather that commercial whalers hunt down and kill every whale on this planet?

· · 6 years ago

I'd prefer to give ex-EV1 driver the benefit of the doubt. My take was that he is not against all environmentalists, but rather those "who, in general, only seem to know how to destroy the fabric of society".

I am also against the sort of environmentalism that does not see the forest for the trees, or that would prefer to send humanity back to the Stone Age.

I personally am motivated to advance the long-term health and prosperity of humanity in a way that demonstrates good stewardship of God's creation. This requires balance, something that is often lacking on both sides of these issues. Yes, we can use the natural resources available to us, but we need to be wise about it. I am here because I don't think we as a society are being wise about our use of fossil fuels.

· · 6 years ago

I prefer to distance myself from the label "environmentalist" for the reasons I mention and abasile expanded on. I consider myself to be an environmentalist in the pattern of John Muir, Baden Powell, and Teddy Roosevelt, not the bunch of egotistical feel-good urban idiots that seem to dominate the movements today.
As abasile points out balance seems to be missing among the majority of the efforts of today's "environmentalists". In Northern California, there seems to be a land rush to 'save' every last stand of redwood in order to get it named after you. I don't want to see every last redwood cut down but it gets pretty ridiculous up there and I highly question the motives.
Don't even think about cutting down an oak tree that's on YOUR property in California.
I believe that the Catholic church needs to police itself too. In the mean time, I'll remain for the environment but I won't hesitate to speak out against environmentalists in general.
I have mixed feelings about Greenpeace. Having jousted with them a few times when I was in the Navy, I see both good and bad aspects of what they do. I like whales -- and a lot of other animals and plants. I am just as much against over-whaling as I am over-fishing, over-hunting, over-planting, over-grazing, over-building, over-population, etc. It all needs to be managed intelligently. Unfortunately, most environmentalist I know of are against whaling, period: No IFs, ANDs, BUTs, or thought. Most of what Greenpeace is involved in with the whales seems to have come down to silly a who's-the-most-macho thing between them and the Japanese. Lucky for them that there are still a lot of nuts out there willing to donate their money to do so.
Environmentalists often wear leather shoes when they protest the fur trade - what's with that?
It's all about as bright as some of the nonsense we see from unthinking Tea Partiers, on the other side of the aisle.

· · 6 years ago

Well, none of us suffer idiots lightly. It doesn't matter what they call themselves - environmentalists, tea-partiers, etc. An idiot is an idiot. No reason to drag down a perfectly good word and philosophy just because some idiots label themselves that way.

· · 6 years ago

Sadly, however, too many idiots acting under labels doing stupid things can pollute the entire label. This, I'm sure is what Bob Lutz is referring to. As another example, just look at what has happened to "Conservatives". In general, they don't even know how to conserve anymore :-(

· · 6 years ago

Indeed. If we need to spew vitrol at all environmentalists because some are misguided, then we'll have to use all of our time flinging vitrol at every other grouping of humanity as well.

Shouldn't we be upset at the misguided individuals (and maybe appropriately label them misguided?) than at "environmentalists?" Or are all conservatives trying to destroy the fabric of society too, and thus deserve our hatred? Oh, and librerals. And everything in-between.

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