General Motors has prepared an advertising campaign that would be launched in the event that more reports of Chevrolet Volt fires generate public interest or a Congressional hearing, USA Today reported, citing GM Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick. The advertisements are "honest" and "straightforward" and would direct people to a website that would spell out why the automaker believes the extended range plug-in hybrids are safe, Ewanick told the newspaper.

GM's been in damage-control mode since a Volt fire occurred at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) facilities early last summer. NHTSA had done a side-impact test on a Volt in May, then parked it outside. Three weeks later, the car caught fire. The battery was determined to be the cause because its coolant line was ruptured during the side-impact test. That led the NHTSA to consider a ruling forcing hybrid and electric-car batteries to be drained after a wreck. Since then, the Volt has been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and retains the IIHS's "top safety" rating.

Last week, GM announced structural and cooling system "safety enhancements" that are intended to more properly distribute the car's energy load from a crash and, thus, better protect the battery from potential fires. All Volts will get the fix for free, but Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said at the time that the decision wasn't officially a recall because it's a voluntary customer satisfaction issue. After the original fire incident came to light in November, GM offered to buy back Volts from owners who felt that the car was unsafe. Only "a handful" of owners took GM up on the offer, USA Today said, citing Ewanick. Last month, GM sold 1,529 Volts, a record monthly total, and sold 7,671 Volts for all of 2011.

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