As a barometer of electric-vehicle sales, auto industry insiders are closely watching how the Chevy Volt fares. But politicos may be watching even more closely.
A story posted Jan. 23 on autonews.com that detailed how some Chevy dealers are turning down their Volt allocations got almost 150 times more page views than the typical story -- more than any news item since the days of the 2009 bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler Group.
The main reason: The Drudge Report, the conservative online news aggregator, posted a link to the story on its home page.
Drudge and other right-leaning sites have closely followed the Volt's setbacks, including the federal investigation -- recently closed -- into whether the car's battery pack poses a fire risk. (It doesn't, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)
The viral Volt story underscores how GM and its plug-in hybrid increasingly could be tossed around as political footballs ahead of the November election.
Opponents of President Obama are likely to bash him for the GM and Chrysler bailouts. And EV detractors have made hay over the federal money spent on the development and subsidized sales of the Volt, which has fallen short of sales targets.
It's a point not lost on GM CEO Dan Akerson, who testified last week before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a hearing on the battery fires.
In prepared testimony submitted to the committee, Akerson said: "The Volt seems, perhaps unfairly, to have become a surrogate for some to offer broader commentary on General Motors' business prospects and administration policy."