2011 Chevrolet Volt
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GM may have designed the Chevrolet Volt to cancel out potential "range anxiety," but the company is responding to a new type of worry today: fear that the Volt's battery will catch fire.
  • The problem? A Volt that had been crash tested in May caught fire three weeks after the crash conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This was revealed in early November.
  • The cause? A ruptured coolant line in the battery, which prompted a new safety investigation that was announced this past Friday.
  • The solution? GM's just-announced free vehicle loaner program and more tests.
Here are the preliminary details: Until the "resolution of the issue," any Volt owner who suffers from fire anxiety can get a free GM vehicle loan. Complete details of this "Volt owner satisfaction program" were not immediately available, but GM North America president Mark Reuss said in a statement that, "A vehicle loan program of this nature is well beyond the norm for a preliminary investigation, and it underlines our commitment to the vehicle and its owners. These steps are the right ones to take regardless of any immediate impact on our operations."

On the investigation front, GM said it would set up a senior engineering team to "develop changes to eliminate concern of potential post-crash electrical fires and work with industry to ensure appropriate electric vehicle protocols were in place." As reasonable voices have pointed out recently, the situation that happened at NHTSA has not been replicated in the real world and is unlikely to happen to any Volts out in the wild. In fact, NHTSA's official statement said that "Chevy Volt owners whose vehicles have not been in a serious crash do not have reason for concern." Still, Reuss said that, "Our customers' peace of mind is too important to us for there to be any concern or any worry. This technology should inspire confidence and pride, not raise any concern or doubt. The question is about how to deal with the battery days and weeks after a severe crash, making it a matter of interest not just for the Volt, but for our industry as we continue to advance the pursuit of electric vehicles."
Show full PR text
GM Builds on Battery Safety to Ensure Confidence in Chevrolet Volt

2011-11-28

Customer safety, satisfaction remain highest priority
Volt owners offered alternative GM vehicle loans for peace of mind
Senior GM engineering team to work with NHTSA on possible changes

DETROIT - General Motors announced Monday initiatives for customer satisfaction and battery safety research to ensure ongoing confidence in the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle.

The initiatives follow six months of research and testing in the United States with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration designed to induce electric vehicle battery failure after severe crash situations.

The agency advised GM on Friday that it would open a preliminary evaluation of Volt battery assemblies after NHTSA test results caused electrical fires up to three weeks after an initial vehicle New Car Assessment Program side pole crash test.

Mark Reuss, president, GM North America, said the company would take every precaution to assure the driving public of GM's commitment to the safety of the Volt being handled after a severe incident and the total satisfaction of everyone who owned one.

"The Volt is a five-star safety car. Even though no customer has experienced in the real world what was identified in this latest testing of post-crash situations, we're taking critical steps to ensure customer satisfaction and safety," Reuss said.

"Our customers' peace of mind is too important to us for there to be any concern or any worry. This technology should inspire confidence and pride, not raise any concern or doubt.

"The question is about how to deal with the battery days and weeks after a severe crash, making it a matter of interest not just for the Volt, but for our industry as we continue to advance the pursuit of electric vehicles."

Senior GM engineering investigation team

Mary Barra, senior vice president, Global Product Development, said GM had established a senior engineering team to develop changes to eliminate concern of potential post-crash electrical fires and work with industry to ensure appropriate electric vehicle protocols were in place. Barra said such electrical fires had not occurred on public roads and NHTSA was not investigating any such potential imminent failure on the roads.

"GM and the agency's focus and research continue to be on the performance, handling, storage and disposal of batteries after a crash or other significant event," she said.

"We're working with NHTSA so we all have an understanding about these risks and how they can be avoided in the future. This isn't just a Volt issue. We're already leading a joint electric vehicle activity with Society of Automotive Engineers and other automotive companies to address new issues, such as this protocol of depowering batteries after a severe crash."

Barra said the team would continue to work closely with NHTSA, suppliers, dealers and manufacturing teams to initiate any necessary changes as soon as possible.

Volt owner loan program

Reuss said GM would establish a Volt owner satisfaction program. Any Volt owner concerned about safety can contact his or her Volt advisor to arrange for a free GM vehicle loan until resolution of the issue.

"A vehicle loan program of this nature is well beyond the norm for a preliminary investigation, and it underlines our commitment to the vehicle and its owners," he said. "These steps are the right ones to take regardless of any immediate impact on our operations."

Launched in late 2010, the Chevrolet Volt has won more than 30 awards in the United States and other markets. The Volt achieved a five-star NCAP overall vehicle score for safety by the NHTSA and is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. GM carried out more than 1 million test miles in vehicle development.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 71 Comments
      TexRob
      • 3 Years Ago
      Don't have time to read the comments, but I am hoping they go something like this: While nice of Chevy to do, to expect a crashed car to be totally safe is absurd. Now if it was repaired, I doubt it, then ok, but my guess is it sat there post crash in full crashed glory. That's not a good idea for any car.
      tenspeeder
      • 3 Years Ago
      I still bet that Dateline had a hand in this fire episode
      rrraptorfan
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don’t know if they are safe or not, I guess we’ll wait for the further testing. The USA Today article did point out some interesting facts however. Actual sales to customers are 5,329 cars and over 11,000 have been built. That means there is a 12.77 month’s supply of Volts on hand (much worse than the previous BS GM has been feeding us). This absolutely huge over-production of a very very unpopular car is what put Government Motors on the ropes to begin with. As a US taxpayer I am sick and tired of subsidizing the development, the infrastructure, and the purchase of this looser. I think it’s time to pull the plug on this car!!!!
        creamwobbly
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rrraptorfan
        "I don’t know if they are safe or not, I guess we’ll wait for the further testing." Safety is relative. Nothing on this planet is 100% safe, but so far, no Volts have caught fire, except one that had been deliberatly crashed and stored in a manner that CONTRADICTS GM's advice.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rrraptorfan
        [blocked]
        nitrostreet
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rrraptorfan
        Anyone concerned about car fire safety needs to read the article in Fire Engineering magazine about the Volt: " gasoline and diesel fuels are a much more likely cause for a car fire after an accident than a high-voltage battery" http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2011/11/chevy-volt-response.html If that's not good enough then they can look at the statistics from the National Fire Protection Organization, which show that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 287,000 vehicle fires per year, or 31 highway vehicle fires reported per hour. These fires on average killed one person a day.
        qzephyr
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rrraptorfan
        If you would have invented the term Government Motors you might get some credibility, but instead you decide to use someone elses opinions. The crash test wasn't properly handled by the NHTSA and GM gets the attack. GM had a procedure for discharging the battery and it was known in advance to NHTSA's crash test and they didn't follow that procedure.
      atltv
      • 3 Years Ago
      35 miles on a charge, and battery fires...What a damn joke and rip off to the American consumer and taxpayer. GM used to make decent cars...now it's crap, crap, and more crap...I have had GM cars for most of my 50 years of driving, and despised Ford, but a Ford or Hundai, or Toyota may well be in my future...certainly not a Govt motors bail out Co. overpriced peice of garbage
        • 3 Years Ago
        @atltv
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      • 3 Years Ago
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      quixmar
      • 3 Years Ago
      Maybe they should scrap the volt and tell Obama to screw. How does an electric car save energy? Electricity is made by burning coal or oil. There is no difference in what pollutant is pumpped into the atmosphere. All the same. Electric car just LIMITS how far you can drive from your home. Why not do what Communists countries do to deal with that problem. Issue "Internal" Passports to the citizens. Why not? We're heading in that direction anyway.
        Lemon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @quixmar
        Generating electricity is significantly more efficient than an internal combustion engine, emits significantly less pollutants, and costs a fraction of the amount of gasoline. All of that is based on current US power generation, which is primarily coal fired power plants. With cleaner technologies like nuclear energy, electric vehicles have an even more substantial advantage.
      rmrmsix
      • 3 Years Ago
      The solution? GM's just-announced free vehicle loaner program and more tests. Has anyone cleared this with Obama? Come on folks.. buy a car and find out it can "blow-up or catch on fire" but keep it .. trust us we will fix it.. and we'll loan you one of the cars we have, that don't catch on fire!! Can we say "Built In America"!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rmrmsix
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          • 3 Years Ago
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          Greg
          • 3 Years Ago
          Not so sure about the environmental benefits of any of these electric vehicles. In some parts of the world the electricity is produced from burning coal or other environmentally harmful energy processes. Until all electricity is produced in a clean way such as wind, solar, hydro, etc. electric vehicles will not be the solution to global warming, and/or "sending money to terrorists".
      • 3 Years Ago
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      recoater
      • 3 Years Ago
      Obama smartest man alive Volt best car made ,NOT!!!!!
        Greg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @recoater
        What does Obama have to do with the Chevrolet Volt?
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Greg
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      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Please loan me a bicycle GM.. because i know gasoline tanks can explode as well and i'm nervous about that.
      Raymond
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yea Republicans and Foreign auto makers trying to make a story where there is none. Leave fuel in a car that is crashed and a hot battery and anything can happen even weeks later. Leave the Volts fuel electricity and fluids in the car and guess what anything can happen. Sad thing is we live in a society that is either this unintelligent or this hateful of domestic product. I plan on buying a Volt and have no worries because I have an education past the 3rd grade and I don;t let the media guide my thoughts.
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