A funny thing happened around the politics of electric cars.
The screaming stopped.
We’ve waited almost two months to write about it, but it would appear that the chorus of right-wing attacks on electric cars–including the Chevrolet Volt–has mysteriously and quite suddenly abated.
In late March, there was the remarkable Fox News segment in which the reviled Chevy Volt was transformed into an energy security hero.
Then in mid-April, Bill O’Reilly said “we like that”about a profusion of electric cars.
At the same time, Motor Trend writer Todd Lassa highlighted counterattacks from the right on behalf of the Volt against the misstatements of Rush Limbaugh, Neil Cavuto, Eric Bolling, and other Fox News contributors.
Among the proponents were former GM product czar Bob Lutz, himself a conservative, who met with right-wing organizations in Washington to argue the Volt’s merits.
Abating in April
Lassa suggested that attacks on the Volt might die down after the presidential election in November.
But in fact they had stopped altogether by then, and the ceasefire continued throughout May.
We haven’t seen or heard of a single outrageously false or biased major piece on electric cars since about April Fool’s Day. (If you have, let us know in the Comments below.)
Instead, some coverage now actually addresses the Volt on its merits.
Mr. Foster drives a Volt
In mid-May, Daniel Foster, a writer for conservative magazine National Review, described the week he spent test-driving a Volt.
His article, Ask Me About Your Volt, mixed praise for the car (“plenty slick, in its way,” an “impressive piece of technology and a lot of fun to drive”) with a long description of being unable to use a public charging station without the right membership card.
His article closes with a reminder that the American taxpayer bailed out and still owns part of General Motors. He calls the Volt,
…a talking point, a floundering mascot of a political worldview according to which markets can be bribed and cajoled into making premature and uneconomic decisions, innovation can be centrally planned, and the future runs on the good intentions of the present’s policymaking class.
Compared to the factually wrong segments and articles of the past year, that counts as progress.
Stronger sales, safety established
In late April, we asked Rob Peterson, GM’s longtime Volt spokesperson, whether the critiques seemed to have ended.
“It’s fair to say that Fox’s coverage has been much more fair and balanced of late,” he told us. “Withstronger sales and concerns over vehicle safety dwindling, there’s definitely less oxygen available to sensationalize Volt news.”
He credited the change to “highly enthusiastic and vocal owners, electric-car proponents, and hawks like Bob Lutz” for keeping critics honest.
But, Peterson said, “the Volt remains a magnet for controversy, [so] continuing to get solid results will be key to avoiding another tempest in a teapot.”
Ad dollars at risk?
Media sources suggest that perhaps business trumped ideology: Did GM have a quiet chat with the sales folks at right-wing media outlets–in which it spends many millions of ad dollars–to suggest that its spending might not be guaranteed?
If that’s the case, we’ll likely never know quite what happened–or how.
On the other hand, perhaps the subject just grew stale, with viewer and reader outrage shifting to new and fresher targets.
Right-wing readers ‘don’t care’
A colleague at one such outlet remarked sadly that electric-car stories had apparently hit a brick wall with readers: “They don’t even hate them enough to care.”
Regardless of the reason, we’re very glad that perhaps now electric cars can be debated on their merits, and criticized based on actual study data rather than unfounded assertions and biases.
What do you think? Is this just a hiatus, or have electric cars moved out of the targets of their most vehement and fact-free critics?