Sunday, March 4, 2012

Responsibility in Journalism

I will admit that I follow the For those of you that don't know the (I suspect that isnt many of you), Matt Drudge collects various media stories around the country, provides links for them, and more importantly, often retitles to the stories for his particular viewpoint. Often his titles cut to the core, but in the case of the Volt, his retitles have been at best partial truths, and at worst, flat out lies. I went to the archives of the, and started a search on the term Volt. It is fairly obvious, from the very beginning, that he has had it out for this car. But let's look at just a few of them...

This little tidbit comes from April 15, 2011 edition. Basically, a garage in Connecticut, home to two electric vehicles, caught fire. The article that Matt links to is titled "Hybrid Car May Have Sparked Garage Blaze 4-14-2011". Matt must also wear two hats, one as a journalist, one the other as a fire marshal, because apparently he knew something the scene investigators didn’t know. The fire would eventually be ruled out by both GM and the fire marshal who stated:

“It wasn’t the cars,” Barkhamsted Fire Marshal William Baldwin told regarding the cause of a fire at the Barkhamsted residence of Dee and Storm Connors.

Did we see a correction, or a follow-up? Nope! Not that I could find, anyway. This would be the start of the faux Volt fire episodes Matt would start lobbing towards GM and at people who would read the title, assume the worst, and move on.
The most damning 'reporting' was of the Volt fire investigation and Congressional hearings, which amounted to a lot of grand standing by the Republicans on the committee to make an issue out of a non issue. The end result of a government investigation is that the Volt no more at risk of fire than any other car on the road, and is deemed safe. To date, there has been NO FIRES FROM VOLT BATTERIES as a result of CONSUMER ACCIDENTS (to my knowledge). The only fires that sparked where the result of government lab tests.  Those lab tests were apparently incredibly hard to recreate. As a result of these tests, GM is making a modification of its own initiation (not government mandated) to improve an area more sensitive to a side impact to minimize risk of fire. That way, when your wrecked Volt is in the junk yard, it won't catch some other junker on fire. There are so many referenced articles to this on, I don't have the space to show them all:

From the November 11, 2011 19:29:13 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.
2nd electric car battery fire involving CHEVY VOLT... ^
From the November 25, 2011 23:17:37 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.
Lawmakers press Volt's safety... ^
From the December 09, 2011 00:36:27 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.
From the January 13, 2012 18:25:35 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.
House panel challenges gov't response on Volt... ^
From the January 25, 2012 13:08:23 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.

GM CEO to Congress: Volt is safe... ^
From the January 24, 2012 19:35:12 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.

GOV'T MOTORS Volt Battery-Fire Investigation Closed by Gov't Regulators... ^
From the January 20, 2012 23:26:28 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.

From the January 18, 2012 19:58:43 GMT edition of the Drudge Report.

You just might think that Matt Drudge has it out for this car. Notice that GM is 'Government Motors'. I don't think the Top Gear team has a bigger crush on the Bugatti Veyron as Matt Drudge has a hate fest for the Volt, and that is saying a lot.

This little gem is from October 14, 2011, is intended to be a fun piece to pay homage to the roots of electric vehicles. Unless you really want to ride around in an electric carriage, this car probably isn't for you. But he used this article as another example to make fun of the Volt, despite being a ridiculous comparison. I suspect the author of this piece didn't expect his journalism to be referenced in such a manner.

If you were a casual passerby, and read this title, you might think the Volt broke down in the Lincoln Tunnel during an evaluation of the car by Fox news. It didn't. The electric range was exhausted while the driver happened to be in the Lincoln tunnel. Of course, the Volt being an electric car with a range extender, this really doesn't matter as the gas engine takes over when the electric 'juice' runs out, and the car will continue to move unimpeded unless you’re an idiot, and decide to pull over. The 'reporter' was Eric Bolling. The entire piece was more a diatribe on how GM got bailed out by the Obama administration rather than a fair examination of the Volt, and even though the Volt MET the bottom end of its target electric range (25 miles), Fox news felt the need to take them to task. Mind you that the advertised range of the Volt is 25-40 miles per charge. Any Volt owner with more than a couple days experience in the car would probably make the same journey and get 30-35 miles of range with no problem. The Volt, like any hybrid car, requires some driver techniques in to get the most out of it, and this is especially the case in very cold weather.

Volt owners are getting over 50 miles of charge out of a battery, 15 more than the average range that is advertised.
Really, Matt? This is worthy of being on your front page? A politician making an ass out of himself, and you decide to publicize the cheap shot? As it turns out, you can put a gun rack in a Volt. It has been demonstrated on youtube. But why would you want to?

This is what Matt is the ‘best’ is at; Partial truths. If you read the title, you would conclude that GM is giving up on the Volt and laying off all their people for good. Of course, the truth is that GM is halting production for 5 weeks, as they built a lot of these cars in February, and for the good of the car, they do not want to over saturate the market. A consequence of shutting down the plant for 5 weeks is the temporary layoff of the workers on the line. Since the line makes only Volts and Opel Amperas (the Euro model of the Volt), these workers can't make other cars. Obviously, this isn't the best situation. Volt owners would love for them to make as many as they can. But the cars are selling in what I think are respectable numbers, considering just how different this car is, and how asking people to buy electric after 100 years of pure gasoline cars is a huge leap.

The good news, which won’t be reported by Matt Drudge, is that there are already reports online from dealers that sales and interest are really picking up.  It seems that the Volt being certified for HOV lanes as a single occupancy car in California and an enticing 0% financing (thanks, guys, I could have used that 2 months ago), dealerships are starting to sell out their inventory and allocations.  The $4+ a gallon gas is also helping.  

I don't recall seeing any mention of the 4 or 5 month sales growth at the end of 2011 for the Volt.  Of course, he did cover when the sales dropped to around 600 in January, a month that is traditionally bad for a lot of cars, especially cars as heavy with tax credits such as the Volt.  Buyers are less likely to buy a car like the Volt in January because they will have to wait over a full year to get the $7500 from the federal government.  That is naturally going to push sales up as the year goes on.

Earlier there was a title on the page stating 'GM blames media'. After seeing Matt Drudge's coverage of the Volt, I think they are spot on.

See all the entries I left out, because I didnt want to have to photoshop another 10 links...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the comprehensive analysis!

    A few points...

    1. A Model T got 20MPG... better than the average V8 truck today. How come no one mentioned that?

    2. Eric Bolling's deception started in the Fox News report. The LCD screen told him that he had 300+ miles of range and was getting 100MPG+... but he withheld that information. Instead, he implied that he broke down in the tunnel.

    (NOTE: I have gotten less than 25 miles range when it gets very cold... not sure if you are in a cold enough climate to have experienced that).

    Here is the latest propaganda... Notice the headline and compare it to the text of the article:

    3. Pausing production was a savvy business move to keep the integrity of the MSRP (avoid discounting). Also the plant is gearing up to produce Malibus too. The timing was right for a "pause".

    ...More Stuff: Http://