New York Times makes veiled attack on the Chevy Volt

Recently the New York Times came out with an article title, “Payoff for Efficient Cars Takes Years.”  The article starts with a picture of the Toyota Prius.  It goes on to state that people buy these new fuel efficient cars to save on gas but in reality they do not save you any money.  Fair enough, many car experts agree that the cars are relatively expensive and if your goal is to save money.  A more conventional care would be better.

But that is to be expected with new technology.  Remember what the first Sony Beta machines cost?  How about those first CD-ROM players?  Or the more recent Blue-Ray discs players.  Emerging technologies are expensive, the economies of scale have not kicked in yet, and early adopters know they are paying top dollar.

The article goes on to say that there are only three cars that actually can save you money in the long term; the Toyota prius, the Lincoln MKZ, and the Volkswagen Jetta diesel.  The article continues with an example of an owner of a Toyota Prius and then turns to the Chevy Volt as an example of car that would only make sense if gas was $12.50 per gallon.  The article, however did mention the 93% favorable rating of owners of the Volt.

As a fan of the Chevy Volt, I was disheartened to see this report and how poorly it reflected on the Chevy Volt.  Connected to the article was a comparison chart so I decided to take a look at just how bad it was.  That is when I started to smell a rat and my opinion of the article changed completely.

You see the When they compared the Chevy Volt, they compared it to GMs lowest priced most fuel efficient economy car.  Now that seems reasonable since the article is discussing saving fuel, we should compare the cars to an equivalent normally gas powered economy car.  But when you look at the Toyota Prius, they compared it to the midsized, more expensive, lower MPG Toyota Camry.  It became obvious to me that the survey was rigged to put certain cars in a more favorable light.

The other problem with the report is how they determined the fuel cost savings.  The Chevy Volt is a difficult car to set an MPG rating to.  It was designed so that 75% of American drivers would never have to use gas while running their daily routines.  For most people that means, you only need gas when you go on a trip or do extended driving.   A quick trip to will show numerous examples of people who fill their tank once every 3-6 months.  When the EPA first studied the Volt they gave it an incredible 250 MPG rating!  That was a bit too generous but it is not uncommon for current Volt owners to get 80-100 MPG on average.  So how did they rate the Volt in this article?  Well they don’t actually tell you.  But a quick comparison of cars with similar fuel savings numbers shows that they based their article on a more pedestrian 43-45 MPG.


So the article takes the Toyota Prius and makes it the star of the show.  Instead of comparing the $23,500 Prius getting 49.7 MPG with the $16,000 Toyota Yaris getting 35 MPG, they choose a midsize $22,000 Camry that gets 29 MPG.  See the difference?  By comparing the Prius to the larger more expensive, lower fuel economy Camry, the report was able to report an impressive fuel savings with a very small difference in cost.  If they would have used the Yaris, the fuel savings would be similar to their numbers for the Volt.  And the difference in cost between the Yaris and the Prius would be closer to the Volt.  If they would have chosen a higher MPG rating for the Volt, one that is demonstrably achievable, then the Volt would easily be comparable to the Prius.


So what does this obviously tainted study mean?  Here is my take on the article:

  1. Statistics don’t lie, but liars create statistics.
  2. The New York Times is not a reliable source of information.
  3. There are several powerful interests that do not want to see the Chevy Volt succeed.

  --  Thomas Paine 2



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