3. Chevy Volt Safety Concerns
General Motors has undoubtedly turned a corner since emerging from bankruptcy debt free and the automaker is looking to rebrand itself with a lot of help from one car, the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt represents all the good qualities that GM wants to convey, including the automaker’s history of innovation, as well as a more environmentally friendly focus for the future.
Now suppose something with that all-important car were to go wrong? Like, Ford Pinto wrong. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Early in the year there were two highly publicized cases of Volts burning to the ground. The problem is, the cars were in garages with other vehicles, equipment and sometimes even flammable materials. And besides, who’s to say it wasn’t the charging system and not the car that started the fire anyway. Further investigation revealed that the Volts in question were not to blame, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was already on the case.
NHTSA crash tested the Volt back in June, and three weeks later the car in question went up in flames. What really made the story headline news were allegations that not only had GM held back this information, but NHTSA did as well, not announcing it until November.
With a great deal of uncertainly surrounding this new technology and a lot of politics (after all, GM was, for a time, government owned), Chevy offered to do whatever it could, from buying back cars to offering loaners. Further testing by NHTSA was done and a possible culprit seen as a coolant leak from the car’s lithium-ion battery back. NHTSA has promised further investigation and we can be sure that while the Chevy Volt Fire story started in 2011, it’s not going to end there.
The underlying story, however, is much larger, as a failed Volt could send General Motors spiraling into disaster. GM isn’t just counting on the Volt to rebrand the American auto giant, it has bet on the technology behind the car as the future of transportation, focusing much of its R&D in that direction.