Regular readers probably know the story of the Chevrolet Volt NHTSA post-crash fire by heart, but here are the important details as a refresher: The original car that triggered the investigation was crash tested by NHTSA in May. Three weeks later, in early June, the same car caught fire while in storage. The outside world first heard about the incident in November.

If that timeline seems a bit drawn-out to you, you're not alone – the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending are also raising questions. According to Automotive News, the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), has announced that he will hold hearings in late January on the matter. He said in a statement:

It gives us great concern that recent reports indicate important safety information may have been omitted in testimony before our committee just a few weeks ago. This is a serious situation that our committee will look further into.

The official reason for keeping the information quiet, as stated by General Motors and NHTSA, is that it wasn't until NHTSA was able to recreate the fire that the decision was made to inform the public. Through the summer and fall, the fire was considered a "singular instance." Either way, it's much more than that now...


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  • 65 Comments
      Murad
      • 3 Years Ago
      You don't have to hate the Volt to love the Leaf or Prius. It's possible, and better, to want all hybrids and electrics to succeed.
        Sukairain
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Murad
        You want good EVs and good Hybrids that will bring public acceptance into the new technology. The Leaf does that, and they deserve all the support and praise for their gutsy decision to invest in a limited range EV and push for public charging grid implementation. Supporters of green technology should be even more critical to products that tarnish the future of alternative fuel vehicles. Look at what GM has done for EV future - they were the one to coin the term 'Range Anxiety,' the Volt has been all over the news and media for fire risk that puts doubts in consumers mind regarding EV battery safety, and they continue to market the Volt as an EV even go as far as wanting to apply for California HOV access even though it still carries a gas tank and exhaust pipe. If GM screwed up, fix it or fail. There will be no bail out this time. So far the response from both GM and NHTSA has been disappointing. Nissan is doing well, Toyota is doing well, Tesla is gearing up, and Ford is about to unleash their EV products. GM failed to the point of bankruptcy once, we were hoping they come back stronger, the Volt was supposed to be their flagship vehicle - things are not looking well. Unfortunately these Volt associated fire is already casting doubts in consumers' minds regarding future electric vehicles.
      ryanmit01
      • 3 Years Ago
      Thank God Congress is on the case...........
      SteveM
      • 3 Years Ago
      Corvair here we come.... a perfectly good and safe car will get torpedoed by these proceedings.
        RJC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SteveM
        It's politics, and the money that supports it. Nothing more.
          lasertekk
          • 3 Years Ago
          @RJC
          I'll answer that, this is like eight grade civics. What industrial group is against anything alternative energy related, since it disturbs the status quo? Does that industry's lobbying group contribute money politically? There's your answer.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        nitrostreet
        • 3 Years Ago
        I guess like the Ferrari's the europeans just design their cars to burst into flames while normally driving down the road.
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
      rrraptorfan
      • 3 Years Ago
      “GM’s PR nightmare continues” of course every bit of it was brought on by theirs and the Obama administration’s attempts to deceive the public. First we are told about an electric car that will not have an internal combustion engine connected to the driving wheels. Well it turns out in the end it did and it seems like the reasoning was for “efficiency”. Second we are told about how efficient and non-polluting it was. Well it turns out that the EPA analysis had to be changed from the Clinton administration’s guidelines because otherwise it was a significant polluter and not very efficient at all. Third we hear of about how well the Volt is selling. The numbers aren’t particularly high but they seem a little hard to believe--- more like the number manufactured rather than the actual number of cars sold to actual customers. Then when GM is questioned about the growing inventory on the dealer’s lots we are told some BS about how the dealer must keep at least one around to demonstrate. Then we are told about how production just can’t keep up with demand and the plant must close down to retool for higher production. Numbers like 60,000 cars a year are discussed. Well, when the fire story breaks the actual numbers come out and it turns out actual sales to customers is in the 5,000 plus range and over 11,000 cars have been built---- which means there is over a year’s worth of inventory of Volts on hand. In other words the Volts customers are buying today on average will have spent over a year on the lot and much longer in the future if they continue to produce them at the same rate!! Fourth we have a fire hazard that may or may not be a problem, but GM and the Obama administration chose to hide it for 6 months from the public. Is it any wonder that GM is having a PR nightmare. Maybe if GM would come clean about it they could pull the plug on the Volt and this nightmare would go away!!!
        Bob
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rrraptorfan
        I agree with you in general, at just about every step the Volt failed to deliver on something that was promised earlier. Remember 250mpg? And it's hard to say there is no government involvement in it. The IRS actually changed the nature of their tax credit to keep the Volt eligible. It was initially for pure-electric vehicles, with more than a certain battery capacity (to exclude golf carts and whatnot). But after the Volt design changed such that a gasoline engine can drive the wheels, the tax credit was changed to allow "plug-in hybrid" vehicles. That $7,500 was crafted specifically to help this car. However, I think we should wait and see what comes from the investigation before claiming that there was a definite cover-up of the fire hazard.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bob
          [blocked]
          MTN RANGER
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bob
          I get way better than 250MPG on my Volt. I just checked my OnStar and it is LIFETIME ECONOMY Fuel 619 MPG Electric 32 kW-hr/100 miles Data as of 12/08/11 at 12:49 PM CST My electric bill is about $25 higher a month since I charge at home and work. I little bit better than the $200/month of gas in my old car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Tfree
        • 3 Years Ago
        I agree. This isn't a huge safety risk, but it is a new technology and we don't really know how big of a problem this is until a larger cohort is examined over a longer period of time. What amazes me is the Michael Moore isn't all over this story. It's perfect for him. The government investigating a product is part owner of the company making the product.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Tfree
          [blocked]
        Sukairain
        • 3 Years Ago
        ^You keep forgetting the Volt gas a gas tank unlike the Tesla, the Leaf or Focus EV. People understand that gasoline is combustible, most people had no idea the Volt battery pack had fire risk before these news broke. You always have a choice of returning your car though : ) Do some research on the NHTSA testing of the Volt battery packs, we are not talking about single occurrence here. At least 3 battery packs caught fire, not to mention the battery pack that reignited after the garage burnt down in Connecticut. That was news back in April of 2011, which mean GM should have known about the issue 7 months ago.
          Sukairain
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Sukairain
          ^Still mad I see. lol No worries, if your car catches fire the collision won't kill you..... rage stroke on the other hand......
          bman78
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Sukairain
          you don't read the articles sukairain you just read the headlines. do more research before you post comments I will make it easy for you here are the links. http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/5-Star+Safety+Ratings/2011-Newer+Vehicles/Vehicle-Detail?vehicleId=6508 http://www.iihs.org/ratings/ratingsbyseries.aspx?id=725 http://www.euroncap.com/results/chevrolet/volt/2011/451.aspx
      nsxrules
      • 3 Years Ago
      Given what they put Toyota (and poor Toyoda san) through in their obvious witch hunt to prop up government owned GM I'm glad they are going to investigate this. Further evidence that what they did to Toyota was nothing more than an effort to prop up GM as now they got caught trying to hid the Volt fires.
        Sukairain
        • 3 Years Ago
        @nsxrules
        What goes around comes around. While I felt bad for Toyota, it seems to be they came back ever stronger. I am not a Toyota fan but props to them. On the other hand, I am not sure the Volt will survive this fiasco. If I was a betting man I would say the Volt is finished. Hopefully the hybrid technology will filter down out to other GM vehicles in the future. As it stands, the media circus is just getting geared up for the thunder storm that will inevitably rain on GM for a long while. It would be ironic when most potential buyers end up with the plug-in Prius next year.
      Wisea**
      • 3 Years Ago
      Dern! Here's a perfect example where government "hearings" are not needed. The company and the safety agency has done an admirable job on getting in front of this. The car failed weeks later after experiencing greater than regulated safety requirements. But GM is going to fix the system to higher standards that are now requested. I'm tired of these self important politicians sticking their idiot thoughts into the process. The extremist have hated electrified cars, but yet they love their electric golf carts...it makes the courses more amenable to "special" conversations. Ralph-Nader-much?!
      tigersharkjr
      • 3 Years Ago
      Grandstanding buffoon.
        RJC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @tigersharkjr
        How obvious. It's pure politics to raise a fuss of an incident that occurred THREE WEEKS after the fact and produced zero injuries. I'm not even going to guess which party he's aligned with, nor the corporate masters who are pushing for this 'investigation'. Pure politics, I'm disgusted.
      Alex
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Either way, it's much more than that now..." Right... It has taken extreme testing outside of real-world scenarios to get it to happen in a handful of controlled-condition cases and has never happened in the real world.
      Famsert
      • 3 Years Ago
      And again the GM fanboys on this site will suggest this is all part of some brilliant PR campaign by GM to fix a problem that doesn't really exist.
      P
      • 3 Years Ago
      Jeez, we've put Congress in charge of engineering now? When Honda (in this Ohio Republican's district) had catastrophic gearbox failures that took YEARS to become a recall, I wonder what investigations he initiated. None. This is nothing but a sad attempt by Congress to dis GM and (somehow) the White House yet again. It's so sad what has happened to a once reasonable Republican party. I respect differing views but the GOP has simply lost their damned minds.
        Bob
        • 3 Years Ago
        @P
        The NHTSA is a government agency. I think Congressional oversight of government agencies isn't exactly a stretch. Maybe you are reading motives that aren't there, where is the White House even mentioned in the article? The Volt handling is interesting compared to the recent Toyota "unintended acceleration" thing. No one seemed too concerned with replicating the problem there before fueling speculation.
          lne937s
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bob
          Basil- Investigations showed that virtually of those "reports" were complete BS made up by people trying to cash in after the floor mat investigation. The media circus created that environment. And the Volt now has 3 seperate instances in testing and it looks like there truly is an issue that needs fixing. But recalls happen all the time. The Congressional hearing here, like the Toyota hearing, has obvious political motivation.
          Basil Exposition
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bob
          "The Volt handling is interesting compared to the recent Toyota "unintended acceleration" thing. No one seemed too concerned with replicating the problem there before fueling speculation." In the Toyo situation, there were many reports of UA from all corners of the country. There was a death. It was instantly public news because it was the public that was noticing the issue, not gov. In the Volt situation, it was one singe instance that did not affect the general public. Big difference.
          Famsert
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Bob
          "The Volt handling is interesting compared to the recent Toyota "unintended acceleration" thing. No one seemed too concerned with replicating the problem there before fueling speculation." BINGO.
        dukeisduke
        • 3 Years Ago
        @P
        This is no different than the Big Three show trials from two years ago.
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