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Not Green -- GM Car Shipped to Washington for PR Stunt

     First, the CEOs of the fledgling Big Three U.S. automakers made fools of themselves by arriving in Washington, D.C., on private jets. But their latest ploy – which most journalists seem to have missed – might top even that.

     First, the CEOs of the fledgling Big Three U.S. automakers made fools of themselves by arriving in Washington, D.C., on private jets. But their latest ploy – which most journalists seem to have missed – might top even that.

 

     General Motors CEO Richard Wagoner showed up to ask Congress for a taxpayer-funded bailout in a prototype of the 2010 Chevrolet Volt, a much-ballyhooed automobile that operates chiefly on electricity with a gasoline-powered backup.

 

     But while the Volt is being credited as a potential savior for GM, Wagoner didn’t actually drive it from Detroit. Instead – he took a Chevrolet Malibu hybrid the majority of the trip and took the Volt prototype a distance of just a few miles for the end of the trip, according to reports.

 

     And, as U.S. News & World Report pointed out – the Chevrolet Volt prototype Wagoner arrived in with Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin, both Michigan Democrats, was apparently shipped from Michigan to the nation’s capital – which it said may be a sign the Volt has a long way to go to keep its promises.

 

     However, shipping a car from Michigan to Washington for this PR stunt, in addition to driving a hybrid car, isn’t exactly the “green” image GM is portraying. The car would have to be transported by some mode roughly 524 miles from Detroit to Washington, D.C.

 

     According to estimates from several car transportation companies, the charges vary between $575 and $660. And cars are transported by a diesel-powered rig towing a car carrier – some open, some closed – hardly a “green” method. GM hasn’t responded to to questions from the Business & Media Institute about the mode of transit.

 

     However, all three network newscasts didn’t mention it in their reports on Dec. 5. They showed Wagoner arriving at the Capitol in his Volt prototype.

 

     “Talk about a high-powered carpool,” CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson said. “The head of General Motors drove himself to Capitol Hill with Michigan Sen. Carl Levin riding next to him in front, and his brother, Congressman Sander Levin, in the back. All three auto executives came for their second-chance tour in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. Gone were the fancy corporate jets that angered Congress two weeks ago.”

 

     The other two network shows – “NBC Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” also gave mention of the CEOs’ endeavors.

 

     “Lester, tonight the head of the Senate Banking Committee believes that Washington will find a way to help the Big Three,” CNBC correspondent Phil LeBeau said on “Nightly News.” “And while there are plenty of questions about how exactly to bail out Detroit's automakers, one thing is clear: These automakers need money fast. Driving electric and hybrid cars to Capitol Hill, the Big Three CEOs once again pleaded for a $34 billion bailout.”

 

     “No corporate jets this time,” ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl said. “The CEOs arrived on Capitol Hill in American made cars – electric and hybrid of course. This time they also came with specific plans and a big dose of humility.”

 

     None of the reports mentioned why Wagoner only drove the Volt a few miles to the hearing: its low range. Reports suggest the car’s battery provides a range of only 40 miles on a charge; that wouldn’t get it from Detroit to Michigan’s border with Ohio. The car is also estimated to cost $40,000, meaning it would need to come down in price before it was a viable option for most consumers.

 

     The stunt prompted a response from the ranking Republican on Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. he asked the executives how they got to Washington during the Dec. 5 hearing.

 

     “Did you drive or did you have a driver?” Shelby asked. “Did you drive a little and ride a little? And secondly, I guess, are you going to drive back?”