Print 13 comment(s) - last by dredge999.. on Feb 2 at 11:21 AM

GM CEO Dan Akerson with the Chevrolet Volt  (Source:
In addition to Akerson, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland testified in favor of the Volt

The Chevrolet Volt's reputation took a bit of a beating throughout 2011 after a few battery fire incidents. In May 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a side-impact crash test on the Volt, and three weeks later, the EV caught fire while parked in a testing garage.

The fire prompted a NHTSA investigation of the safety of lithium batteries used in plug-in electric vehicles. Lithium batteries can catch fire if the internal cells or the battery case are pierced by steel or another ferrous metal. In November 2011, the NHTSA conducted three additional side-impact crash tests with three more Volts, and two out of three batteries either sparked or caught fire.

GM immediately jumped on the problem, offering customers loaner vehicles and even buying Volts back from scared owners. In January 2012, GM recalled all 8,000 Volts off the road as well as the 4,400 for sale in showrooms in order to place steel on the plate that protects the EV's battery. The NHTSA tested the new steel piece, and said it took care of the problem.

Despite finding a good fix, GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson was still called to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington in regards to the Volt fires. Today, Akerson's five-page written testimony was released, where he defended the EV's safety to the Obama administration.

"The Volt is safe. It's a marvelous machine. It represents so much of what is right at GM and, frankly, American ingenuity and manufacturing," said Akerson's testimony. "The Volt seems, perhaps unfairly, to have become a surrogate for some to offer broader commentary on General Motors' business prospects and administration policy."

In the actual hearing before the committee, Akerson said the Volt became "a political punching bag" and that the handling of the fires cast "an undeserving damaging light on a promising new technology."

The committee's Republican staff isn't so sure that the Volt is completely safe, however. In a report, it accused the Obama administration of favoring the Volt in this situation, saying the EV was given "special treatment" because GM is 26 percent government-owned as part of a $49.5 billion bailout. The Republican committee staff is investigating why the Obama administration didn't immediately disclose the initial fire that occurred back in May.

"The Obama administration has tied the political reputation of the president closely to the success of GM generally, and to the Chevy Volt specifically," the committee's report said. "Not only has the administration offered substantial taxpayer funded subsidy to encourage the Volt's production; it has also extended a significant subsidy to encourage consumers to purchase the vehicle; and the president has even offered the vehicle his personal endorsement."

Akerson said in the hearing before Congress that GM never asked the Obama administration to keep the initial fire hush-hush. He also added that the fire which occurred last May would not be a threat to owners in the real world.

In addition to Akerson, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland testified as well and denied that GM asked the NHTSA to sweep the initial fire incident under the rug temporarily in order to avoid criticism.

"We pulled no punches," said Strickland.

Sources: The Detroit News, The Detroit News

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Right on...
By Masospaghetti on 1/25/2012 11:33:11 AM , Rating: 4
I don't always agree with Akerson (actually, he's said some pretty stupid things) but he's right on the money here. I understand people's problems with the GM bailout and how it was handled, but the Volt is something that Americans should be proud of.

RE: Right on...
By KnightBreed on 1/25/2012 12:18:59 PM , Rating: 4
I agree completely. The car is a technology marvel. It's reviews have been positive. By all accounts it's actually a good car.

It's main issue is how expensive the damn thing is. But GM can't afford to lose 10+ grand on each one like Toyota did with the first Prius.

I'd say the Volt was a pretty damn good first generation, considering the moonshot that it is. Now hurry up and get Gen2 out the door because I'm not paying $40k for one.

RE: Right on...
By SoCalBoomer on 1/25/2012 2:45:03 PM , Rating: 4
Except that it isn't a car that people want - witness the fact that less than 10K of them have been sold, even though it was last year's Motor Trend CotY (before a single one was sold or even available) and has had it pumped a TON. . .

RE: Right on...
By Masospaghetti on 1/26/2012 8:45:24 AM , Rating: 3
Before the recent fire-fiasco (which is another issue entirely, which we could talk about for a long time) the Volt was almost entirely supply constrained, not demand constrained. Even though there were some vehicles "in inventory", many dealers never had a single one on their lots. Cars can't be sold with nothing to show! Also, its obvious that many people still don't really understand how the Volt works or what it excels at.

RE: Right on...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/25/2012 3:42:50 PM , Rating: 2
I would be a LOT more proud of the Volt if it didn't take billions of dollars of taxpayer money to get it to the market. Are you honestly THAT thickheaded that you cannot understand American's angst over the vehicle and GM in general.

Look at the sales numbers (subtracting Government fleet purchases), that tells you all you need to know about how "proud" we are of this thing.

I'll never buy a car that's been personally endorsed by the President, ANY President. That is NOT the Government's role. And if you cannot feel the real and legitimate anger and concern that's out there over this, you don't have your finger on the pulse of America.

RE: Right on...
By Keeir on 1/25/2012 9:02:02 PM , Rating: 3
Viewed objectively, the Volt is the type of R&D you want a forward thinking company to pursue.

I think most everyone is critical of the lack of quality small cars built by American companies for a decade. Implicitly blaming the lack of R&D and "forward" thinking for the need for Auto bailouts.

Yet when GM actually goes after making a forward thinking car, people act as if GM killed their children.

The sad part is most of the people most critical of the Volt do not understand how the car works or have ever driven one. I have. Its not the best car, but if I had a choice between a Prius and a Volt. I'd choose the Volt. If I had a choice between continuing development of the Mild Hybrids, Strong Hybrids, ER-EVs, or full EVs... I'd chose the ER-EV. Do I wish GM had sucked it up and made it 40 miles AER per 2008 EPA testing and 37,500 MSRP. Yes, yes I do. But I think its time to stop blame-shifting. GM would have been bailed out regardless of the Volt. The question I think should be asked...

Would you prefer GM to have the experience of developing the Volt or not? Does the experience and product inventory increase GM's long term competitiveness outside the Volt? Looking back 15 years, I think Toyota made out like a bandit for following through with the Prius, though it took 5 years and 2 revisions to get it right, and GM lost big time by not following through with the EV1 (regardless of the smart business choice at the time)

RE: Right on...
By Masospaghetti on 1/26/2012 9:07:38 AM , Rating: 2
I would be a LOT more proud of the Volt if it didn't take billions of dollars of taxpayer money to get it to the market.

I think it would be extremely foolish to NOT invest in battery technology and manufacturing here in the US. It's not certain where the market is going next (whether EVs, CNG, hydrogen, etc) but to lack any advanced technology infrastructure would be a huge disadvantage in the future. Other countries support their advanced technology far more than the US government does (China, for instance) and they will quickly leave us behind and obsolete if we are not careful.

I would much rather battery packs saying "Made in USA" being installed in EVs that say "Made in USA" are being exported to other countries, instead of buying a car here in the States that has a Chinese or Japanese-sourced hybrid powertrain.

Look at the sales numbers (subtracting Government fleet purchases), that tells you all you need to know about how "proud" we are of this thing.

The only confirmed government fleet purchases (that I know about) were in May 2011, for 101 vehicles, unless you can produce some real data. And you fail to note that for most of the year, demand far outstripped supply and that many dealers still have not had access to one.

And if you cannot feel the real and legitimate anger and concern that's out there over this, you don't have your finger on the pulse of America.

The Volt was in development long before Obama took office. This was not his car, nor did he have any influence over its development. I think his choice to "endorse" it was a mistake as it suggests exactly what you are saying, despite what really happened.

What really gets me, though, is that you choose to bash the car for its technical merits, not just because it was subsidized. I understand you have a problem with the government involvement with the car. But your prior attempts to criticize the car because of its performance have shown complete ignorance.

RE: Right on...
By rich876 on 1/26/2012 9:20:26 AM , Rating: 2
The Volt was a product of pre-bankruptcy and was finance mainly from that money...not from government money like you suggested.

Do you like Ford? For your information Ford accepted many billions from the US government. Why they are never mention is beyond me?

RE: Right on...
By S3anister on 1/25/2012 9:59:55 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't commented on DT for a long time but I'm breaking that because I completely agree with you. All things considered, it is indeed an engineering feat to be proud of.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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