Chevrolet Volt ad, Hawaii

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In advertising, that can mean stretching the truth to outrageous proportions.

In 2008, at the beginning of the housing crisis, the National Association of Realtors stated boldly in a desperate TV advertisement: “Home Values Double Every 10 Years.” If you buy a house now, in 2008, the ad insinuated, it would soar in value. If we were to follow the Realtors’ logic, a new home purchased for $244,000 (the median U.S. average) in October 2005 would sell for $488,000 in 2015—a preposterous assertion. In fact, the average median price for a new home had fallen $32,000 to $212,000 in October 2011.

Now, it seems, GM is making alarming assertions about the Chevrolet Volt, of which only 1,680 were sold in May—not enough to make a dent in the billions of dollars that GM has invested in the extended-range vehicle.

In this commercial, Elissa of Westland, Michigan, says she is “totally in love” with the Volt, her “dream vehicle.” Her round-trip to work is 40 miles—a happy coincidence since the car’s electric range is approximately 40 miles. “I’m never at the gas station unless I want some coffee!” Elissa effuses.

But here’s the kicker. At the end of the ad, she says the Volt is “the best thing ever. As a matter of fact, I’m taking my savings so that I can go to Hawaii.”

To which I say: Give me a freaking break! What savings? You just bought a compact car that retails for $39,145. It is the most expensive car in its class ever. You’re talking $39,145 retail, plus $850 destination, plus $2,350 in tax (Michigan rate), plus $3,850 in interest payments (based on 60 months, 5% rate, $10,000 down), which brings you up to $46,195. Even when you deduct a $7,500 federal tax credit (and Elissa may not qualify for all of that; read this), you’re at $38,695. A 2012 Honda Civic Sedan starts at $15,605, with a sufficiently equipped automatic starting at $19,455.

Elissa could save more than $1,000 a year on gas with the Volt, but she could never recoup in gas savings the money she forked over on signing day. Kelley Blue Book states that the five-year cost of ownership of a Volt is about $10,000 more than a Civic with automatic.

Certainly, Elissa wouldn’t have savings left over “so that I can go to Hawaii.” Come on, guys. That’s just ridiculous.

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