Meddling with American Mettle

January 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Innovation, News, Opinion

Conspiracy theorists appear to be running Congress. It’s also clear a few have political axes to grind with the Obama Administration. Today, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) probably thought he was taking GM CEO Dan Akerson and NHTSA Administrator David Strickland to task over the alleged delay in notifying Volt customers of fires induced by lab testing last summer. But the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform didn’t get any apologies during today’s hearing in Washington, DC. Rather, Akerson’s opening salvo proudly ticked off the list of achievements garnered by the Chevy Volt, all from a company that emerged from bankruptcy a little over two years ago. A few highlights of the Volt’s rookie year included:

  • Motor Trend Car of the Year
  • Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year
  • North American Car of the Year
  • 5-Star occupant safety rating and Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • A 93% approval rating from Volt owners
  • 25 million miles without a single fire-related incident

Akerson reminded the panel that the events in question occurred days and even weeks after impact testing under conditions that no driver would encounter in the real world. Further, those with any knowledge of the auto industry can appreciate the rigor with which GM and NHTSA pursued a definitive understanding of the root cause before taking action.  This was perfectly acceptable and reasonable given the fact that customers faced no imminent safety risk. To GM’s credit, the company informed customers and quickly engineered and implemented a solution.

But that didn’t stop attempts by some politicians to capitalize on anti-government fervor. “I don’t believe you,” Issa is reported to have said to NHTSA’s Strickland. A telling admission from a decidedly belief-driven politician inclined to dismiss facts and attack the very engine of America’s recovery. The panel’s report, “Government Motors: A Preliminary Report on the Effects of Bailouts and Politics on the Obama Administration’s Ability to Protect American Consumers,” misrepresents or overlooks many facts, including the detail that government purchase subsidies pre-dated the current Administration. It is truly saddening that Congressman Issa and others like him are willing to throw American innovation under the bus to score political points in a misguided and ill-advised effort to stir up its base during an election year.

By some insane logic, the hearing was an attempt to demonstrate that government support would take away consumer choice. “We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice,” Akerson countered, “to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interest first.”

But, Akerson concludes, “We did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag.”

Well said. Have we become a nation accepting of a political discourse that cuts off our nose to spite our face? What do you think?

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