Volt Hearings: Volt Is Safe, NHTSA "Acted Proportionally"

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GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

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"Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag. Sadly, that is what it's become."

That's how General Motors CEO Dan Akerson described the furor surrounding the Chevrolet Volt battery fires. A pack demolished in NHTSA crash testing had caught fire in a storage yard three weeks after the test, and further tests replicated the effect in a lab.

In a hearing aimed at finding out what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knew about the fires - and when they knew - GM and the NHTSA faced questions by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Mike Kelly (R-PA), among others.

Administrator of the NHTSA, David Strickland, denied that the NHTSA should have revealed data about the crash-test fire earlier than it did.

"It is irresponsible... frankly illegal, for us to go forward and tell the American public that there is something wrong with a car when we don't know what it is," Strickland said.

He added, "It took us that time [the five months between the fire and the incident being reported] to figure it out." Strickland denied that an announcement about the incident was delayed to avoid impacting on Volt sales, adding "We pulled no punches".

Speaking for GM, Akerson added that he felt the NHTSA's treatment was proportional to the incident, when asked by Issa if the NHTSA's response had been aggressive, average or below average.

Akerson flatly denied the assertion by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that GM had asked the White House to keep quiet about the fire. No such conversation ever happened, he said.

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

GM CEO Dan Akerson at the Volt battery fires hearing

Enlarge Photo
Akerson told the attendees he viewed the hearing as a positive - a very public chance to prove that the Volt is a safe car, to reiterate its 5-star NHTSA safety rating, and to stress that no fires have yet happened out on the road over millions of Volt miles.

He also quipped that a period of 7-21 days, after which time the testing fire had occurred, is usually enough time to exit a vehicle after an accident.

GM has already developed a fix for the issue, strengthening the battery pack to better resist side impacts. As a show of confidence, Akerson revealed he himself had just bought a Volt, and drove it to the hearing.

So is the Volt safe?

It was a question seemingly asked a dozen times or more at the hearing, and each time, the answer was the same:

Yes, the Volt is a safe car.


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Comments (5)
  1. Firstly, the important thing to note is that this was not an inquiry into the Volt safety, it is a bit of political theater.

    Also, regarding the characterization of Kucinich's question to Akerson, it sounds like Kucinich believed there was White House interference. That is not the case.

    Kucinich was feeding questions to the witnesses trying to get clear statements from them. He was not being aggressive and not accusing.

  2. @John. Thanks for the accurate comments and also for a bit of clarification; I had not heard anything about the context of Rep. Kucinich's question and was initially surprised since it seemed accusatory about White House interference. Good to hear that it wasn't an attack at all since that would seem quite contrary to his usual political views.

    Yes, useless political theater... Pandering to the dumbest, most paranoid, anti-EV, anti-alternative energy audience possible.

  3. GM has already developed a fix for the issue, strengthening the battery pack to better resist side impacts.

    No change at all to the battery packs. Two pounds of metal brackets placed inside the cars center tunnel where the packs are bolted under the Volt.

  4. what markets is the volt available in now?

  5. I dont see this being a green car thing , as my 07 Honda Civic Si caught fire sitting in the yard at the body shop almost 4 days after I crashed it. I smashed in the pass side headlight and did some damage the the wireing harness to the ABS motor and apparently after some poking and proding by the smashed harness finally shorted causeing a fire. So with this being said regular old gas powered cars are a fire hazzard. I am just glad it didn't take me 4 days to get out of the car.

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