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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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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.

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