As enthusiasts, it’s usually easy to point to the bean counters when something goes wrong in the auto world. This time, General Motors has decided it doesn’t need the $14.4 billion it requested through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program.
“This decision is based on our confidence in GM’s overall progress and strong, global business performance,” said Chris Liddell, GM vice chairman and chief financial officer. “Withdrawing our DOE loan application is consistent with our goal to carry minimal debt on our balance sheet.”
GM’s ATVM loan application was sent in October 2009, just a few months after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Department of Energy set aside $25 billion to help automaker factories in the United States retool in order to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles – all in the idyllic interests of reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions while promoting domestic labor. Automakers, regardless of national origin, could apply.
Since the ATVM program’s implementation, Ford ($5.9 billion), Fisker ($529 million), Nissan ($1.4 billion), Tesla ($465 million), and the Vehicle Production Group ($50 million) have tapped around $8.4 billion of the available $25 billion. Chrysler has applied for $10 billion to help with costs for building electric, hybrid, and conventional gas-powered vehicles. Smaller electric carbuilders have inquired for funds as well.
As we wait for GM’s Q4 2010 financials and year-end performance results, the automaker claims to have taken in $4.2 billion in net income through the first three quarters of 2010. GM had committed $3.4 billion to ongoing facilities development to help get cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and Volt onto dealer lots.
Speaking of the Volt, GM has experienced the need to ramp up dealer rollout. Though Volt doomsayers have been swift to point to its $41,000 price tag, dealers have apparently seen an influx of new customers specifically interested in the hot Chevy.
“The Volt is clearly bringing new customers to Chevrolet," said Harry E. Criswell III, president and owner of Criswell Chevrolet in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "We are seeing 10 to 15 customers a week who are seriously considering buying a Volt. Many of them own competitive brands and now have a Chevy on their shopping list because of the Volt."
The Volt’s launch schedule started with deliveries to California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington D.C.; Michigan dealers can expect Volts this spring. GM will look to capitalize on early Volt interest by taking accelerated production and delivery options. Bottom line: Volts will be available across the U.S. by the end of the year.