• Oct 23rd 2012 at 10:24AM
  • 83
On the electric car front, Dan Senor has failed.

Senor was supposed to be the guy to convince Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that electric cars were a good idea, but at last night's third and final debate between Romney and President Obama, Romney again said that investing in electric vehicle companies is not a good idea. Specifically, he attacked both Fisker and Tesla. According to the transcript, he said:

We in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world. And we're going to. We're going to have to have a president, however, that doesn't think that somehow the government investing in - in car companies like Tesla and - and Fisker, making electric battery cars - this is not research, Mr. President. These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company. This isn't basic research. I - I want to invest in research. Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks - great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That's the wrong way to go.

As our friends at Green Car Reports point out, the feds did not invest in these companies. Instead they got low-interest loan guarantees as part of a Department of Energy loan program. For what it's worth, Tesla is preparing to start paying back its loan early and Fisker didn't even get all of the money it was allocated.

As happened in the first debate, when Romney called Fisker a "loser" and compared the automaker to Solyndra and Ener1 (as well as Tesla), online reactions came fast and furious. One of the funniest: "TeslaMotors and Big Bird, you gotta band together. No more funding for you under Mitt."

Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" opinion column from 2008 also came up in the debate. If you haven't yet, you can read the original text here.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 83 Comments
      MTN RANGER
      • 2 Years Ago
      Back in 2009, the DOE lent out $8B for electric vehicles and battery manufacturers. Of that, $5.9B went to Ford. $1.6B went to Nissan. $.46B went to Tesla. Where is the vitriol and outrage for Ford. Where did that $5.9B go? Tesla has built more Model Ss than Ford made Focus EVs.
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        Amen, brother. :)
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        "Where is the vitriol and outrage for Ford. " And it is worse than that . . . conservatives constantly like to say "Ford did not receive any bail-out" . . . as if a $6Billion low-interest loan is anything other than a bail-out!
        MTN RANGER
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        Oh, I found it. Ford used the money to pay down their highly mortgaged debt from before the auto collapse of 2008. Not much used for development. Since Magna did all the heavy lifting for BEV development, would you consider this 5.9 B loan "wasted"? http://www.autoblog.com/2010/08/10/report-ford-using-government-backed-loans-to-pay-off-debt/#content
        American Refugee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        Four words. Potential. Voters. With. Fords.
        Rob J
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MTN RANGER
        I would make 3 arguments against your point (but I still agree with you overall). 1) Ford employes a lot more people - so the jobs per dollar loaned would be higher 2) Ford makes cheaper cars for the "Everyman", some see Tesla as elitist. 3) Ford has been around longer an people "trust" them as a good investment
      A_Guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't doubt Obama does his share at times, but it's much less severe. I mean really, it seems the biggest thing they hang him for is not stating 'act of terror' correctly, even if he did say it in a different sentence construction. WHO CARES
      American Refugee
      • 2 Years Ago
      Americans lock up more of their fellow citizens then any nation on earth. Locking people in cages is very, very expensive. Think of it as the ultimate form of communism; the government provides everything for these souls, food, shelter, medical care, etc. The government pays a fortune to employ people to stand around watching these caged Americans. This is all very, very costly. Yet no American politician will point this out. Instead, they will demand that ever more Americans are caged, almost always for non-violent crimes, many of them involving the eating and drinking of particular substances. Billions of dollars of profit are generated for private businesses through this system, powerful unions are enriched with donations, and politicians are paid off with donations from both those parties. All this goes more of less without comment, but god forbid the government invest .01% of the budget in the most important technology of our lifetimes, making sure that America stay competitive with the rest of the world and build a future with good paying jobs in that technology, jobs that will pay the taxes of a future generation. That's socialism!
        Ford Future
        • 2 Years Ago
        @American Refugee
        "Americans lock up more fellow citizens" - Who could have predicted this, after you privatize prisons?
        MTN RANGER
        • 2 Years Ago
        @American Refugee
        Ah, the "War on Drugs", we could go on forever about lost tax dollars on this endeavor. It provides a lot of income to the prison industrial complex.
          American Refugee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          And somehow, in 270 minutes of Presidential debate, not a single mention.
          Grendal
          • 2 Years Ago
          @MTN RANGER
          Happily the prison industrial complex brought up regularly on "The Daily Show" as a topic. It's so blatantly obvious there is a double standard when it comes to cocaine. White powder cocaine, the rich man's drug, you get off with a strong slap. Crack cocaine, the poor man's drug, you're thrown in prison. Same drug and same effect - two different outcomes.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @American Refugee
        And the worse part is that people are okay with it. Okay with extraordinary rendition, torture, kill lists determined by the president, 100,000's of dead innocents, starting new occupations/wars in africa, continuing what is basically Vietnam part II in Iraq and Afghanistan ( yes, we have 50,000 people in Iraq and combat troops just got redeployed a few weeks ago, even though The president said we ended that war long ago, twice ) Okay with inflation, poor regulation of banks, crony capitalism, legalized corruption in the form of superpacs and lobbying, unlimited campaign donations, bailouts, etc Okay with slamming doors in the faces of 3rd party candidates, presidential candidates being able to edit what gets out into newspapers, imprison protesters, etc. ( i could go on ) Yup, you are wise for leaving. Mind helping me cross the pond, refugee? i'm fed up for sure.
      Yu Sun
      • 2 Years Ago
      Romney, you don't want to mass with Tony Stark, I mean Elon Musk. He will kick your ass with his armor, and banish you on Mars.
      Rob J
      • 2 Years Ago
      Romneys first sentence shows he doesn't actually understand how the global economy works. America CAN NOT compete in some markets without government influence. If the Chinese government is going to subsidies their solar industry and the American government is not then American companies are going to lose. This doesn't just go for subsidies, if proper trade tariffs are not installed, the same outcome will occur. The real world is not a free market so no president can force it to change.
        Matt Fulkerson
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rob J
        Republicans have always been willing to play "the game" when it comes to gaining military superiority, but the idea of the free market is so appealing for them that it trumps all real world evidence showing how countries gain economic advantage (for example, enacting policies encouraging trade surpluses). They simply have a belief system that tends to view choices as 100% black or white, with no shades of gray in between. Romney would probably argue that American workers can compete with anyone in the world on a "level playing field". Never mind that no amount of complaining by US politicians will do anything to level the playing field, and never mind that the premise of a level playing field is fundamentally flawed as there is no reason to believe that the world economy is a system that naturally seeks some sort of state of equilibrium between world economies. Romney's campaign positions may be ridiculous, but they are pretty standard for his party.
        Ford Future
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rob J
        The "free market" is just a Republican slogan.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      What would Romney do to encourage high tech manufacturing? Give tax cuts to rich people and let China dominate the electric vehicle market?
        brotherkenny4
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Well, yes, but also he would place huge import duties on vehicles from China, because what he really supports is oil. So that is why he specifically calls out Fisker and Tesla as poor investments, because he knows that the once big three love oil and oil companies too. Fisker and Tesla just might change the game, and the "always reliable to the oil companies three" won't do that.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      "..the feds did not invest in these companies. Instead they got low-interest loan guarantees as part of a Department of Energy loan program." Talk about semantics. Can the Government (tax payers) lose money on these loans? If so, then it's an investment with all the downside risk.
        A_Guy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        That's not semantics. When you get approved for a loan from a bank do you think somehow you're off scot-free? (maybe during the Bush era, but not with the regulations in place now :)
          throwback
          • 2 Years Ago
          @A_Guy
          If the company is bankrupt all that's left for the government to claim is the value in intelectual property that company owns. Assuming you can find a buyer.
        paulwesterberg
        • 2 Years Ago
        @throwback
        I am pretty sure that if the company did in fact go into bankruptcy that the government loan would get paid back before the shareholders. How much would tesla vehicle designs, electric power-trains & technology be worth to a major manufacturer? So yes there is risk, but it is not unsecured.
          throwback
          • 2 Years Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          The government would only get money if there is any value in the property the company owns. The questions is still, Should the government be in the business of picking winners or losers in any industry? If so what industries? How much tax payer money should be put at risk? What happens if these companies go bankrupt? Shouldn't someone in government be responsible for their poor choice in selecting these companies? If there is no ownership of the failure what's the incentive for "picking" certain companies?
          Grendal
          • 2 Years Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          The government is not picking winners or losers. The government is either giving or loaning money into an industry that they want to promote and improve. The businesses in those areas will either succeed or fail but the overall goal is to improve the technology and market share both nationally and, more importantly, internationally. The exact same thing happens in other government contractors as well. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and McDonnell-Douglas go through the same sort of processes and the myriad of other government contractors too.
      Grendal
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just made this point on another thread where someone was angry about Fisker getting their loan but the comment fits here very well too: So you're really mad at who got the money? Which other companies would you rather the money have gone to? Are they still in business? If you're mad the money was given out then it's Bush's fault. If you're really mad at who it was given to then, sure, get mad at Obama. But really, the program had $25 billion earmarked to be given out by Bush and then you must applaud the Obama administration for trimming that down to only $8 billion actually given out. They also cut off Fisker at $178 million. It seems to me that you're blinding yourself from the reality that, as far as this loan program is concerned, that the current administration did a pretty good job with it. Ford seriously improved the quality of their product and has stayed competative and out of bankruptcy, Nissan came out with the Leaf and has a US plant coming on line, Tesla created a company and an amazing EV, and Fisker created a cool looking car and hasn't gone under yet and certainly has the possibility of succeeding. Not perfect, but really not too bad. Compared to a lot of other government spending, I'd say America might just make the $8 billion back on their investment and loans.
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most voters have made up their minds, so Romney's attack on the electric vehicle companies is somewhat wasted effort. Low information voters know nothing about these new fancy electric cars, and the low information voters are who are undecided. They will base their choice on something very superficial instead. Note that he attacked only Tesla and Fisker, who are the real threats to the status quo. GM, Ford and Chrysler are well behaved, as can be seen by their overpricing of the electric vehicle technology they offer. But Tesla and Fisker, they have no allegiance to the wealthy of old. Their prices are high only because they are learning to manufacture, but the components of electric vehicles will become commodity types of supplies. Thus long term they should beat the large old companies, because they start from a smaller more streamlined perspective. GM, Ford and Chrysler are old and have way too many colluding and useless managers and VPs and such, (too many chiefs and not enough indians). So in some ways, Romney was correct, we should have not helped these old useless companies. They are still about stagnation. Eventually, they have to fail again, because they are just incapable of change.
        carney373
        • 7 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        I don't buy your line that the other automakers are deliberately over-pricing their EVs to undermine and sabotage that market and protect their gasoline cars.
      GoodCheer
      • 2 Years Ago
      "huge import duties on vehicles from China" Hard to do that without pissing off the WTO. As much smack as the GOP talks about the UN, I don't think we're likely to secede.
      • 2 Years Ago
      1) A loan guarantee is most certainly an investment. "Investment" is not defined as equity. Loans, guarantees, equity, or any form of capital commitment that exposes tax payers to losses are investments. 2) Why is the outcome (as yet undetermined) relevant? If it's a good investment, private capital will make that determination. Government employees are not hired to make investment decisions on my behalf, and their decisions will inevitably take into account any number of political considerations. This is clearly bad policy, and no string of "winners" has even the slightest impact on the obviousness of that truth.
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        Government employees make investment decisions on your behalf every day. It is obtuseness and narrow thinking that prevents you from seeing the larger picture. Want a small example...where does the extra $1 trillion in military spending go? Romney mentioned the Navy. Outside contractors (which are companies) are paid to design and build those ships. That's the government investing in a company to build the equipment that is then used by the Navy.
        GoodCheer
        • 2 Years Ago
        It's not at all clear that it's bad policy. Private investment does not realize gain from reduced oil imports, the country does. Private investment does not realize gain from improved air quality in cities and reduced health costs, the country does. We (the country) benefit from these investments in ways that private investors, looking only at cash payments, cannot.
      • 2 Years Ago
      "I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration." -Mitt Romney Offering government-backed loans, as President Obama has done, seems like exactly the kind of thing Mitt Romney said we should do. Government-backed loans are a form of "public-private collaboration." You also get more bang for your buck than, say, tax breaks because the loans have to be paid back while tax breaks do not, leading to lower costs for just about the same amount of incentive. I will not hold my breath waiting for Mitt Romney to give details as to what specifically the government would do that would constitute "public-private collaboration." The only time he's provided any details on his plans are when President Obama has already done what Romney said he would do, and this is only because you can specifically see what actions the President has done. I know when the President talks about "public-private collaboration" he is talking about government backed loans, because that is what the President has done. When Romney talks about "public-private collaboration" I have no idea what exactly he will do to achieve that and he appears so afraid of losing this election that he absolutely refuses any concrete answers.
        Ford Future
        • 7 Months Ago
        When did Romney say this, and how long did it take for him to change his mind.
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