Former GM Executive Bob Lutz Slams The GOP’s ‘Pure Fiction, Knee-Jerk’ Hatred Of Electric Cars

Bob Lutz doesn't like what he hears from GOP pundits about the Volt

GM’s Former Vice Chairman, Bob Lutz, slammed GOP media pundits yesterday for spreading “pure fiction” about the Chevy Volt and other electric vehicles.

Conservative commentators — led by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News — have taken every opportunity to tear down the Chevy Volt, calling it “crappy,” a “Fred Flinstone car,” and an “exploding Obamamobile.” They’ve even called Volt drivers “dorks.”

The attacks have gotten so intense, hardcore Republicans are now slamming the onslaught of ludicrous comments. Lutz, a Republican who once called climate change a “total crock of shit,” has become increasingly critical of fellow conservatives who have undertaken a vicious media campaign against the Volt.

Speaking yesterday at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think thank, Lutz called out the “knee-jerk” pundits who have tried to turn the Volt into a political joke. E&E News reported on his comments:

“The unfortunate thing is that because electric cars are very associated with the left-wing environmental green movement to combat global warming and reduce [carbon dioxide], the idea of vehicle electrification triggers this visceral reaction on the part of conservatives — which is, if it’s electric it must be a product of the left-wing, Democratic enviro-political machine, therefore we hate it,” said Lutz, a self-described conservative.

“This is an unfortunate, knee-jerk reaction because what the Volt and other vehicles like it are about is … shifting portions of the American mobile sector onto a more efficient and domestically produced power source,” he said.

“No electric vehicle has ever caught fire [in use], and yet the right is constantly talking about the flammability, overheating, fire hazard of the electric vehicle,” he told the conservative audience. “Folks, it’s pure fiction. Please get it out of your heads.”

Last month, Lutz wrote a column in Forbes lamenting that “all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth” about the Volt.

Lutz called Charles Krauthammer — his former “hero-figure on the Right” — a member of the “the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously” for claiming that the Volt was an example of Obama’s “interventionist policies.”

In fact, the Volt has been in development since 2006 — two years before Obama was even elected.

Lutz isn’t the only conservative who is roiled by the GOP punditocracy’s campaign against electric vehicles. Last month, Lee Speckerman, another self-professed lover of Fox News, went on the network’s morning show to bash its commentators’ “fetish for demonizing the Volt.” Speckerman argued the Volt was “the iPhone of the American automobile industry.”

Despite the continued attacks and a cycle of very sluggish sales, March was GM’s best sales month ever for the Volt.

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53 Responses to Former GM Executive Bob Lutz Slams The GOP’s ‘Pure Fiction, Knee-Jerk’ Hatred Of Electric Cars

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    Why is a hybrid car almost 1/2 the price of an EV?
    Basically its an electric car with a gas option, isn’t it?

  2. David Goldstein says:

    wah, wah, wah wah. Not so fun when the lobotomized denialsphere is taking money out of your pocket, is it ‘Climate change is a crock of shit’ Mr. Lutz?

  3. Hardy Haberman says:

    I drive both a Hybrid and a high MPG Chevy Equinox. I would have bought a Volt instead had it not been for the price. Once these cars become a little more competitive in price I will trade in my gas powered SUV for a Volt.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    This guy is one of the main reasons, why we still just have a few thousand electric cars on the road.

  5. prokaryotes says:

    GM is no hero, no villain: “Who Killed the Electric Car?” painted GM as a short-sighted company concerned more with immediate profits than game-changing innovation. This time around, GM fares better. The Detroit News reports the film includes a gut-wrenching scene of President Barack Obama announcing GM’s bankruptcy, but it ends on an upbeat note with “footage of Obama at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant looking at a Volt and Lutz watching the 100th Volt come off the assembly line.”

    Jet setting is tone-deaf: While everybody’s talking about electric cars these days, Paine’s film is still unique because he was chasing the story before anyone else. As a result, he managed to capture what could be a defining moment of the auto industry. Per The Wrap: “He is inside the meeting at GM where Lutz acknowledges to his team that taking the corporate jets on a trip to DC to ask for Congressional money was tone-deaf, and perhaps a little ‘humility’ was in order.”

    Volt is a car guy’s car: Lutz, a car guy if there ever was one, treats the Volt as something of a baby. “Anyone who leaves electric cars to the interest of hippies and hipsters should be required to see Lutz, cigar in hand, worrying about ash getting into the crannies of the Volt’s dashboard design,” said Cinema Blend.

    Where is the real deal? Where is the Volt with 100% electricity and a range comparable to Tesla’s Sedan aka Model S 2012? (base model will have a range of 160 miles)!

  6. Mark says:


    More batteries. They’re expensive.

  7. Sasparilla says:

    Its the size of the battery Paul and they are expensive, although coming down in price over time. A hybrid has a battery that can drive the car by itself for a very, very short range – its there to capture braking energy and reuse it for acceleration etc. on a hybrid.

    On a plug-in the batteries are much larger and are there to drive the car on the battery for much larger distances.

    Generation 3 Prius battery is 1.3kWh in capacity.

    Nissan Leaf battery capacity is 24kWh in capacity.

  8. Raul M. says:

    People who have an elec. Usually say they like it and want to keep one. I think that is a common opinion of the smaller hybrids and elec. cars.
    My elec. Bicycle didn’t go far except when I thought of walking that distance, turns out that it would have been very far.
    Loved it and want another one, just in case reasons.
    Glad to see people with more monies thinking of other things besides suv commercials. You know the average mom does not look like that even if she does get a gas hog.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    What do you mean prokaryotes?

  10. Sasparilla says:

    It’s nice to see Lutz (and others) pushing back and getting traction against the propaganda that was being fed (by both News Corp outlets and GOP politicians and their lackeys) to potential consumers – we need everybody switching over to plug-ins. Unfortunately the friends of oil did alot of damage to initial impressions of folks on the right.

    It’s important to keep in mind that someone up at the top of Fox News (a couple of weeks ago) flipped the switch so that plug-ins and the “Volt” are now good (or at least okay) news objects (the coverage totally changed like a light switch was flipped). The channel has run several “good news” stories.

    Prior to 2009 Fox News and its hosts were big promoters of plug-ins and the Volt in particular, but that changed 180 degrees after 2008. This has been documented previously, but bears repeating.

    My personal opinion is that Big Oil wanted the attacks and paid for them through advertisements and lobbying (would explain why they occurred on News Corp. and from within the GOP Political Establishment at the same time). My guess is that Fox and Co. were getting enough blowback from within their audience to have to stop it (or GM said they’d stop advertising on Fox) or both.

  11. David Lewis says:

    Lutz was on Bill Maher’s show recently and said “my attitude has been reinforced since then“, referring to when he stated global warming was a crock of shit.

    He’s semi retired but stays in touch with top management at GM. He said today’s high price of gas doesn’t matter to Americans, i.e. GM management, because Americans have had time to get used to high prices. Last time prices were around $4 a gallon and above the price represented a doubling in a short time, he said, and it was the sudden change that had people thinking maybe they’d change their gas guzzling ways.

    He seemed supremely confident that gas guzzling as a way of life, or even as a religion, was here to stay.

    He has no idea what the scientific case that climate scientists are making is – he just mindlessly and emphatically repeats moronic talking points he’s picked up from the denial machine. A description of what happened during his appearance with Maher and the video of his appearance is here

  12. prokaryotes says:

    He was the reason why the movie “Who killed the electric car” was made in the first place.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    But Bob Lutz is strongly implicated in Chris Paine’s earlier documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, for GM’s decision to crush the EV-1. He is also widely quoted as having said of the Prius, “Hybrids make no economic sense.” Yet the Volt is a hybrid. What helped Bob see the light?

    Seems it was Elon Musk. Born in South Africa and educated in Pennsylvania, Elon sold PayPal to eBay to start Tesla Motors, a Silicon-valley-based manufacturer of premium electric cars. When a fellow like that says, “Let me run Detroit!” that’s neither a promise nor a prediction; it’s a challenge. “Elon Musk and the guys [at Tesla] are learning what it takes to put automobiles together,” says Bob Lutz patronizingly, “It ain’t easy.” But Elon stirred something in the testosterone-laden GM brass. Bob got whatever he needed to build the Volt.

  14. M Tucker says:

    Be careful who you rally behind. The conservative campaign to achieve “US energy independence” has not reached the gray matter of all conservative pundits but it relies heavily on the continued low price of natural gas. This campaign pushes electrified compact cars, CNG for larger personal vehicles and long-haul trucks, North American oil, and natural gas of all new thermal electric generation. Lutz is a supporter of expanding the use of natural gas for transportation and electric generation. They call it “energy independence.” Besides natural gas it supports Canadian tar sand oil and all new shale oil plays like N Dakota and what is now happening in Kansas. The Volt still needs some gasoline.

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Indeed. However, most car trips do not require more than 40 miles of charge. But the CO2 footprint on average will be bad, from long distance travels. I think i read somewhere that around 75% of all car trips are below 25 miles. But the Volt is not really “just a city car”, it is also made for long distances, with his gasoline engine.

    Basically i support this, but the car is still a bit too expensive and should have been build years ago. But this goes for the entire industry.

    When you look now what is starting right now with all the new models coming out (Tesla’s model S or BMW i3 and i8 or the Infiniti – the luxury Nissan leaf with through the air charging! These cars are breathtaking!) you can see that the fight for the electric auto market really has started! These cars literally own the gasoline cars, they are simply better.

    What is lagging now is the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    I’m not familiar with the details of that, I know he was the guy at the executive level that pushed a plug-in with GM management and got the Volt to go forward.

    I’m pretty sure he didn’t join GM till 2 years or so after GM permanently closed the EV1 assembly line at the Hamtramck plant (1999). I believe he was with BMW before that.

    I know that in the end it was GM CEO Rick Wagoner (who was at GM the whole time of the EV1) who made the call on the EV1 and its destruction (which he later called his biggest mistake).

  17. Sasparilla says:

    He’s always been a denier (gets his news from News Corp. outlets of course..) and I doubt that will ever change.

  18. M Tucker says:

    “These cars literally own the gasoline cars, they are simply better.”

    Oh, I agree. We must have electric cars even if we must start with some sort of electric / gasoline hybrid. But without a strong subsidy program market forces will still encourage gasoline vehicles. New models with better mileage will still outsell the expensive battery powered varieties. And Americans still want SUV’s and trucks. Some may eventually be powered by CNG but gasoline still is king for the moment.

    The auto companies seem to be buying into the “energy independence” movement that is small but has influential conservative proponents in Wall Street. What they mean by independence is independence from OPEC not independence from crude or natural gas. The auto industry knows that CNG for SUV’s and pickups is not realistic and just not possible for compact cars. If the new boom in oil exploration using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing can really boost US domestic production then, when coupled with increased use of Canadian tar sand oil, the US just might be able to jettison OPEC imports. This years away and ensures continued dependence on gasoline. The push to expand natural gas for transportation is a bid to boost the price and support that industry. We will have a lot of vehicles on that bridge to nowhere.

  19. Scott Bard says:

    Gosh golly fellas, somebody grab the teeny-tiny, itty-bitty little violins to play along with Luntz’s sob story.

    These guys never fail to make me want to puke. They’re all fine with the lying and propaganda of their side until the shit happens to fall on their own shoes, and then they get all indignant over it.

    Should have worried about your side’s politicization of energy conservation and climate change long before you brought out the Volt, not now when they’re just being their usual knee-jerk selves. What on earth did you expect?

  20. Crease says:

    To bad Bob Lutz didn’t say much when he was on Bill Mahr last month when he had a chance to do so.

  21. ZoeyKay says:

    The only reason I see the GOP hating electric cars is the simple fact that the cars don’t use gasoline, and their oil industry campaign donors can’t make any profit off of them. Oh boo hoo.

  22. VBobier says:

    Then Repugnicans must by extension Pro Terrorist and Pro OPEC Oil, In a word Luddites…

  23. If Lutz really wanted the electric car to succeed, he wouldn’t deny climate change. People need to realize we have a problem. Without the denial, the Volt would be flying off the lots. It’s stupidity that’s killing the Volt.

  24. Anne van der Bom says:

    Conservatives bashing the Volt is the ideological equivalent of friendly fire

  25. keith franklin says:

    Today our Volt hit 2200 miles. We have used 16 gallons of gas. We paid $29000 after tax credits and it costs $1.00 to charge over night, but it also gets charged whenever we get home. So we regularly get 50-60 miles each day on no gas.

  26. D. Walters says:

    Diversifying our energy portfolio with respect to transportation makes more sense than putting all our transport energy eggs in one basket. Things like, some new mid east crisis put America in a crisis mode every time….

  27. dana1981 says:

    It’s ironic that Lutz’s beliefs on global warming are based on pure-fiction, knee-jerk hatred of liberals/environmentalists/whatever.

    But he’s right about the Volt. I finally saw my first Volt in person two days ago, though I’ve also seen 5-10 Nissan Leafs in person (including my own), and one Mitsubishi iMiev.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s hard to feel sympathy for the reptiles when they start turning on each other.

  29. Oilygarch says:

    This last weekend I attended an Electric Car Show where about 40 EVs were represented, and about 20 of those were BMWs. When I asked how much they were, they said they were not for sale, but, only available for a two-year lease. OK, I said, how much? They said about $400/month. Could I buy one after the lease was up? No, they would have to be turned into BMW for destructive physical analysis. I asked, what about the Mini-E? They said they no longer have that program and all those have already been turned in because those were phase-1 of their trials and the ones they had there were phase-2.

    So, right then and there I learned that Chevy wasn’t the only brand destroying their EVs, even ones that customers wanted to keep.

  30. John Shutz says:

    The position taken by conservatives in this situation is no different than many others, if a democrat believes in it, they take the opposite position. No matter what the evidence the spin machine immediately goes to work with their rubber stamp response which generally demonizes everybody associated with it. No surprise if Mr. Lutz will now be thrown under the bus for his truthful words. The good news is the conservative naysayers go to the well with this negative strategy every time because it works for them. For example, all you have to do to get a response from the ill informed is to attach Nancy Pelosi’s name on it, regardless if its relevant or not. It all boils down to a complete lack of ethics and truthfulness, they are liars and believe their own lies. I’m fed up with their kind and if you dig deeper and follow the money trail, the truth will prevail. Unfortunately they have a boat load of cash at their disposal and will go to no limits once the campaign “officially starts”. Thanks to the activist Supreme Court.

  31. TKPGH says:

    I found out last night that Chris Christy recently visited Better Place in Israel, as has Mitt Romney. While I’d prefer to be talking about somebody else having sone so, I’ll admit that it’s refreshing to know that these two have at least given the technology a good look, in spite of any flack they might get from the knuckle-draggers in the GOP.

  32. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to hear. Keep on pluggin!

  33. Sasparilla says:

    BMW’s vehicles (the BMW and Mini) really are test vehicles for BMW – to get things right before they roll out the vehicles you can buy (not a bait and switch like the 90’s).

    The plug in BMW’s you can buy are coming in 2013 (I believe) and here are the concept versions (final versions won’t have the clear doors but otherwise will be close). They are called the i3 and i8, one is ridiculously expensive and one will be close to current Leaf pricing supposedly (let you guess which one).

  34. Sasparilla says:

    I worry about the effect of that ruling on this years races, the Dems loose the Senate and things could get really ugly really fast.

    “Secret donors pour millions of dollars into Crossroads GPS”,0,6124833.story

  35. Sasparilla says:

    Very well said. Getting the battery price down is the main thing and that is happening, just have to wait on successive generations of larger number production vehicles to see it (Leaf gen 2 and Volt gen 2).

    Private and Public money is finally being turned loose on battery tech and its having a big effect.

    “Advanced vehicle battery costs dropped 14% in the past year; down 30% since 2009”

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s the same in Australia. The Right oppose everything the Left proposes, simply out of a primitive reptilian reflex. It even extends to saving their own descendants from Hell. The chances of the Right ever coming to their senses, admitting the facts and joining the rational fraction of humanity are close to zero. When the excrement hits the fan, they will lash out in order to try and save themselves and their money, their ‘Precious’.

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Crossroads were (and still are, I presume)places of magical power and significance, good venues for hangings and gibbeting. A place where ‘ghosts, malevolent fairies and devils’ congregate. Is Mr Rove trying to tell us something about the Republicans’ real patrons?

  38. sara says:

    I agree

  39. Robert says:

    I’m off to see “Revenge of the Electric Car” right now. I think it is a positive development that the right wing nuts are irrationally bashing electric vehicles. Its a ‘teachable moment’ for folks like Lutz who contributed to the insanity and now find it biting them in the a…, er wallet.

  40. Mark Shapiro says:

    Want to see and hear the case for electric cars? Watch Shai Agassi of Better Place explain his model:

    Watch the video, then watch the company. He is making a huge bet, and a huge claim that electric cars will take over.

  41. MorinMoss says:

    I’ve been following Agassi and Better Place for years but I’m starting to worry.
    While they have delivered about 100 Renault Fluences in Israel, I can’t find any info about the progress with switch stations and they are supposed to have their official launch in Israel in a few months.

  42. Mark Shapiro says:

    Right. Success is not guaranteed. They could fail in many different ways, and they are spread thin.

    But it’s there to watch. 100 cars are on the road.

  43. Andrew West says:

    Electric cars run on coal and natural gas – that isn’t progress.

    Hybrids make much more sense. The average daily automobile use in America is 25-30 miles. A battery that supported 50 miles, combined with a gas tank worth another 200 miles, would be practical.

    If we had enough hybrids and drieves opted for electric (most days) the total CO2 emissions from automobiles could be reduced by 50%. 200 mile batteries and rapid charge stations are not in the near future. Of course, we need to clean up electricity generation, too.

    I have posted an Intro to economically viable solutions here:

    Our energy/transportation policies/plans don’t need to be all-or-nothing.

  44. SovereignMary says:

    Well Mr. Lutz – until the Chevy Volt and other electric vehicles can make it under their own steam without taxpayer funded incentives and huge, gross and obscene taxpayer fed rebates for those who purchase them – I don’t think you have room to slam anyone.

  45. Tom Neuhaus says:

    We have owned a Prius I since 2000. It has 171K and I have not spent a dime on it except to replace the tires and the big battery (after 160K). Best car I ever owned. We also generate ALL our electricity via the sun and it did not cost us one penny. We pay a lease that is less than what the sun bestows upon us. So, those of you who continue to be deniers, go crawl under rocks where you belong.

  46. brian says:

    Over the past several years the level of anger and rhetoric between the left and right has reached a fever pitch, but it is by no means equal.

    The GOP base views anyone who disagrees with them as anti American communist who’s ideas will destroy America and have no merit to even be negotiated with. The liberals as always still feel that both sides have a bit of merit and that reaching a compromise of middle ground is what is best for America.

    The GOP believes any means justify the ends, from killing abortion doctors to stop abortions, to removing democracy and elected officials from Michigan to consolidate their power, where the liberals do not agree with that at all.

    And finally the GOP feels that any lie no matter how big is ok to tell as long as it gets your supporters to vote for you and further stoke anger towards the left. Liberals do not believe wholesale lying to get elected is ethical.

    And finally the GOP gets away with all of this and gets their base to vote for people who will enact policies that will hurt themselves by giving them a villain to focus on and a group of people to blame for everything wrong with America and all their problems…..the Democrats.

    In history there have been other political organizations that lied and stoked fear and anger by giving the people someone to blame for all their problems. And it usually did not turn out very good.

  47. sailrick says:

    DOE-funded battery breakthrough to halve cost, triple range

    “A new breakthrough from California-based Envia Systems will yield lithium-ion batteries that are less than half the cost of current cells, while also having three times the energy density. And guess who funded it? The Department of Energy. That’s right: Sometimes, when the government invests in innovation, it pays off moon launch-big.”

    “Envia’s announcement said that its packs would deliver cell energy of 400 watt-hours per kilogram at a cost of $150 per kilowatt-hour. Though it doesn’t disclose a cost breakdown, Tesla Motors rates the energy density of its Roadster’s pack at 121 watt-hours per kilogram. Envia said its energy-density performance was verified in testing of prototype cells at the Naval Service Warfare Center’s Crane evaluation division.”

    {read it at Grist}

    This will mean electric cars that are inexpensive, and have a 300 mile range

  48. sailrick says:

    Bob Lutz has a habit of citing the Oregon Petition as proof that there is no consensus on global warming. I’ve seen him do this twice on television

  49. Spec says:

    C’mon Stephen . . . please do a podcast for this issue. You can pull plenty of clips of Bob Lutz talking on TV & radio.

  50. Spec says:

    Yeah, I’m a fan of EVs but I find it hard to buy into the Better Place model. Who wants to get locked into an endless supply contract with a single supplier?

  51. There may be more at work here than a chain of associations. Maybe
    these right-wing agitators have business relationships with oil
    companies that want to maximize the consumption of oil. Maybe they
    have been tasked with denigrating electric cars.