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."
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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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