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Proving once again what happens when the government tries to pick winners in the marketplace, a new report shows that General Motors loses $49,000 on each Chevy Volt it manufactures. The reports were base on estimates given to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts.

Those numbers may be on the conservative side because there are leasing deals offered this summer where customers are paying a little over $5K for a two year lease on the Volt which costs as much as $89K to build.

And while the loss per vehicle will shrink as more are built and sold, GM is still years away from making money on the Volt, which will soon face new competitors from Ford, Honda and others.

GM’s basic problem is that “the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced,” said Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group.

And in a sign that there may be a wider market problem, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi have been struggling to sell their electric and hybrid vehicles, though Toyota’s Prius range has been in increasing demand.

GM’s quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs – which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase.

But the Volt’s steep $39,995 base price and its complex technology — the car uses expensive lithium-polymer batteries, sophisticated electronics and an electric motor combined with a gasoline engine — have kept many prospective buyers away from Chevy showrooms.

Remember as part of the deal to save GM, the president pushed production/introduction of the car earlier because of his belief in “global warming.”  Consumers have not been warming up to the Volt despite the fact the government has been subsidizing their purchases.

The lack of interest in the car has prevented GM from coming close to its early, optimistic sales projections. Discounted leases as low as $199 a month helped propel Volt sales in August to 2,831, pushing year-to-date sales to 13,500, well below the 40,000 cars that GM originally had hoped to sell in 2012.

Out in the trenches, even the cheap leases haven’t always been effective.

A Chevrolet dealership that is part of an auto dealer group in Toms River, New Jersey, has sold only one Volt in the last year, said its president Adam Kraushaar. The dealership sells 90 to 100 Chevrolets a month.

GM acknowledges the Volt continues to lose money, and suggests it might not reach break even until the next-generation model is launched in about three years.

“It’s true, we’re not making money yet” on the Volt, said Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of global product programs and the former Volt development chief, in an interview. The car “eventually will make money. As the volume comes up and we get into the Gen 2 car, we’re going to turn (the losses) around,” Parks said.

That’s all well and good till you realize the company is losing OUR money as based on the deal to save GM the federal government owns a big chunk of the company.

“I don’t see how General Motors will ever get its money back on that vehicle,” countered Sandy Munro, president of Michigan-based Munro & Associates, which performs detailed tear-down analyses of vehicles and components for global manufacturers and the U.S. government.

A normal company would cut its loses and stop producing the car. Sadly for General Motors, this is not a normal company, it takes its orders from Washington DC, who doesn’t mind wasting taxpayers money.

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