Sunday, July 22, 2012

Debunking Seton Motley: Dealing with Absurdity

ATTN:  Unlike Seton Motley, if you see anything below that you feel is not accurate, and you can correct it with appropriately sourced material, comment below.  I will consider all corrections to details in this article.

It is a sign of the times when Matt Drudge decides to link to a blogger's site as a source of legitimate news, especially when that blogger is clearly not in touch with reality or the truth.  He did so last week when linking to a blogger named, Seton Motley.  Ironically, the blog entry is mentioned as an 'Update,' when most of the material sourced within the blog is old news, some of it almost 2 years old.  Seton has just recycled and mischaracterized old information.  I have thoroughly debunked his attempts in the past associate the Volt with fires.  I have attempted to have Seton correct his misinformation, yet he refuses to do so.  If he did, his argument against the Volt would be limited.  It is now necessary to confront his misinformation.  In fact, show me one Seton Motley interview or article that isn't filled with inaccurate, false, or misleading information, and I'll be amazed.  I am going to link you to his latest blog entry on the Volt so you can read it in its entirety.  Debunking his posts are an exercise in tedium, so while I don't discuss everything, I do hit the big issues.

One other thing to keep in mind.  As you see all the liberties that Seton takes with 'version' of the truth, take note that he is routinely on radio and television.  That means that a lot of people hear what he has to say, believe it is true, and move on.  It is sad when such misinformed people, like Seton, are given such a loud platform by which to spread their lies.

This is the offending blog:
Seton uses a few tactics to make his points, which often fail when compared to rational and logical arguments. 
Tactic 1: Guilt By Association.
Tactic 2: Using outdated and usurped material.
Tactic 3: Just plain bad logic.  Seton often strings together things that are completely unrelated to attempt to make a point.
Let's start to examine his latest blog post.  I am attempting to respond to as many of his inaccuracies as possible. 
SETON BLOG: The Press has failed to mention at least five Volt fires, myopically focusing on the one the Obama Administration hand-selected for attention.
The Press hasn't failed to do anything.  The Press has likely seen, as I have previous posted, that there has only been one Volt fire, a fire that happened during a government test crash.  I explain this in great detail in one of my blog entries, complete with lots of sources.  I suggest reading it, because I'm not going to rehash it in this entry.

In addition to the government testing and garage fires that I have meticulously and accurately explained, he also says:
SETON BLOG: In January, GMcalled back” every single Volt ever sold in the U.S., to fix the allegedly already “fixed” battery….
Technically, it wasn't a recall.  GM did this voluntarily after the NHTSA tests exposed an area of concern, and GM made the correction before any government mandated recall was necessary.  I don't know why he says the battery was allegedly 'already fixed' as this is the only corrective action GM has made with regards to the battery.  The correction basically adds some extra steel around the battery cage to protect it more from intrusion in a severe accident.  This is the first example Seton uses to make it seem like GM is failing to make the Volt a safer car.  Here is the second:
SETON BLOG: But that didn’t fix the problem either. So in March Chevrolet announced they were replacing the power cords for nearly every single Volt ever sold in the U.S…
Actually, the battery cage enhancement did satisfy the government.  It did fix the only battery related issue to date with the Chevy Volt.  Completely unrelated to the battery was an issue with the car provided charging equipment (EVSE).   An EVSE is essentially an expensive extension cord which interfaces the charger that is built into the car with your wall power (in this case, 120 Volts).  The plug for this EVSE was not very rugged.  People were hanging these EVSEs by the plug, as opposed to properly mounting them to the wall with a bracket. Imagine you have a chest high mounted standard outlet, and you plug your alarm clock up to this outlet, allowing the alarm clock to dangle on the wall and not resting on a table or the floor, with all the weight on the plug as it connects to the outlet.  This would result in wear on the outlet, cord and plug. There were some reports of damage to the plug, which could have lead to a fire.  In an abundance of caution, and since people were clearly using the EVSEs in a manner that was not in accordance to the manufacturer's guidelines, they replaced the cords and plugs on the EVSEs with a heavier duty version.   This is not related to the Volt fire.  This is not related to the garage fires.  This is not related to any battery issues.  It was component that needed updating. 

SETON BLOG: And on Wednesday (April 11), a General Motors (GM) lithium-ion battery exploded and caused a fire at a research facility near its Detroit headquarters. Most unfortunately, …one employee faces life-threatening injuries

Lithium-ion batteries like this one are used by GM in the Chevy Volt. Making this just the latest in a long line of Volt fire problems.
Seton uses Guilt by association for this.  GM was testing, by their own accounts, prototype batteries in 'extreme conditions' that are 'not in any production car' including the Volt.   Since this wasn't a Volt battery, by extending his logic, since one lithium battery exploded, we could conclude that all lithium batteries must be dangerous.  This obiously isn't the case.   Have the rest of you thrown out the numerous other devices in your house that use lithium batteries?  I didn't think so.  Another strike for false Seton logic...

SETON BLOG: The Press has failed to mention that the Volt fire problem remains unsolved. Is it the battery? Is it the charging station? Is it the charging cable? All of the above?
The correct answer to his question is 'None of the above'.  The Volt battery issue was resolved in January.  "Is it the charging station?"  Again, Seton uses the 'outdated and usurped material' tactic in this instance.  During one of the garage fires in which the Volt was cleared of fault, Duke Energy initially told its customers to stop using the charging station they had installed for early adopters, as it was present in one of the two garage fires.  After an investigation, Duke would clear the charging station of any blame.  Does this matter to Seton?  Nope.  I actually sent him a link the the article where Duke Energy is quoted.    No corrections.  And since the 'charging cable' issue to the best of my knowledge hasnt been linked to any fire, I'm not even sure why he is mentioning it.  Misdirection?

SETON BLOG: “The Press has for the most part failed to mention how pathetic this “second-best sales month” actually is. And even when one Dinosaur does, the unwarranted enthusiasm is palpable.
Wow. Huge number.
The Press also fails to put this pathetic tally in perspective.

Actually, I think the press has done a pretty good job at putting this number into perspective.  Year to date, there are only 6 hybrid cars and zero electric or hybrid electric vehicles that have outsold the Volt.  The Volt has actually outsold, year to date,  over 30 other cars in those categories.  In fact, the Volt is the number one selling American owned and made hybrid car.  The Volt has outsold other notable hybrids such as the Honda Civic, Insight, Ford Fusion, and Chevy Malibu.  Seton goes on to compare the Volt to the Chevy Cruze, an econobox, that has already sold over 100k cars in the first 6 months.  If you compare just about ANY car to the Chevy Cruze, it will look like a failure.  The Volt and the Cruze may share the same chassis, but this is common in the industry.  There have been Toyota platforms that were also sold under the Lexus name, and VW that sold under Audi, to name a few.  Just because the Volt is built on a Cruze platform doesn't mean the car is just a 'Cruze with batteries'.  Since the top 4 traded cars for the Volt are the Prius, Camry, Civic Hybrid, and BMW 3 series, all cars that carry a large premium over the Cruze, it is safe to say the Volt is much more heavily valued than a 17k Cruze.

SETON BLOG: And speaking of the Volt’s ridiculous $41,000 sticker price
There goes Seton, again, using outdated information.  The 2012 Volt reduced the base price to ~40k.  Seton is quoting the price of the base 2011 Volt.  But this is onpar with the rest of his very outdated analysis.  The following being the worst:

SETON BLOG: According to multiple GM executives there is little or no profit being made on each Volt built at a present cost of around $40,000. Furthermore, the $700 million of development that went into the car has to be recouped

Where does he get this?  An article published back in 2010, almost 2 years old, in which an executive stated that it will take some time to amortize the expenses out of the Volt development, and that it will take a while to increase the per unit profit.  Why is this news?  This is the case for many new vehicles, especially ones that have a lot of new technology.  The Toyota Prius was reported to sell at a loss of 10k per car when it was initially sold in the United States.  They are now selling over 15k a month, presumable at a reasonable profit, as they have earned back their R&D.  Why should the Volt be any different?  Does Seton want GM to produce the same model year after year, never refresh its lines, so that it can be made completely irrelevant?

SETON BLOG: Speaking of those “tax breaks for purchasers and other consumer incentives” - as of November of last year that tally all by itself was $250,000 per Volt sold.
I'll let you read the following link that discuss the credibility of that report.  It may be interesting for the reader to note that the Koch Brothers have funded the Mackinac Center.  The Koch Brothers have wealth in the billions, and are heavily invested in the oil and gas industry.  Can you really trust a study from a group that being partially funded by essentially oil and gas investors?

I also find the view of subsidies incomplete.  While electric vehicles definitely enjoy some government incentives, according to our own government, we spend between $6 billion and $60 billion a year to protect Middle Eastern Oil Reserves.  This is an ENORMOUS indirect subsidy that every consumer in America gets, as that military protection is stabilizing worldwide oil prices.

So who is really getting the biggest subsidy?

SETON BLOG: And with GM’s new 60-day return policy, it looks like you can buy a Volt and cash the $7,500 bribe check. Then return the Volt - and keep the $7,500 bribe cash. How’s that for Taxpayer coin stewardship?

Is there a possibility of fraud as a result of loopholes in the government tax credit?  It is possible.  I am trying to get some details on this.  This isn't so much a Volt problem, as it is an IRS problem.  So in a blog filled with inaccurate data from Seton, it is possible he got one thing partially right.   Then again, given his track record, I won't be betting the house on his revelation. 

In conclusion, if a blogger were really trying to make an informed audience, he would not resort to any of the tactics that Seton uses.  It is dishonest.  It purposely distorts the argument and misinforms its readers.  Seton's blog is an embarrassment to the truth.  He is obviously ignoring any data that stands to tear down his poorly constructed arguments.   I hope the rest of you can see through it.  While there are good discussions that can be had about electric cars, lets build those discussions on an honest debate, not a facade of the truth.


  1. A good review of the abusive world of SETON... But really no one believes that guy anyway, I doubt he even believes himself, he is just getting a pay check to spew misinformation about a new technology that is challenging his paymaster.
    End of story.

  2. Interesting. Are Volt sales setting the world on fire? NO Are Volt's more expensive per unit than other cars due to amortizing a HUGE amount of development costs across fewer sold units? YES

    Like any new technology, the Volt is more about creating a new market and product rather than selling just another mature product. I am sure the first cars (pre Ford Model T) were expensive vs. horse buggies. I know the first computers cost millions of dollars, required large special climate controlled rooms, and didn't do all that much all that fast. You have to start somewhere, and in this case what we are looking at is something along the lines of the original Apple II computer in the evolution of electric personal transport...that is reasonably good market acceptance, but not one in every home due to high cost. Just wait until we get $6-8 gas though.