Volt Loaners - General Motors is offering free loaner cars to Chevrolet Volt owners worried about the vehicles catching fire, after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a probe of possible problems with the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.
NHTSA said a battery pack in the car that was being monitored after a crash test caught fire on Thursday. The agency says another battery that recently was crash-tested gave off smoke and sparks. The latest fires are in addition to a battery fire at a test facility in Wisconsin in June.
GM said on Monday the electric cars are safe but it will contact Volt owners of the more than 5,000 of the vehicles sold in North America since December 2010 to reassure them. It will also offer the loaner cars to ensure that Volt owners are satisfied and confident in their purchase. GM has not put a time limit on how long customers can keep the loaners.
The Volt, which can travel about 35 miles on electric power before a small gasoline generator kicks in, has helped Chevrolet’s public image, and GM is eager to protect that good will. The company put two top executives on a conference call Monday to announce the loaner-car program and answer questions.
Mary Barra, GM’s senior vice president of product development, said both fires reported by NHTSA occurred seven days to three weeks after the crash tests, and could have been prevented if the battery charge had been drained as GM has called for in its post-crash procedures.
She said only a few Volts have crashed on public roads, and none of those has caught fire, nor have the battery packs been compromised.
“We don’t think there’s an immediate fire risk,” said GM North American President Mark Reuss, who was also on the call. “This is a post-crash activity.”