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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Making its way on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick for 2012 is the all-new Buick Verano. This raises General Motors IIHS Top Safety Pick award count to 14 in 2012 – not too shabby.
Equipped with 10 standard air bags, the Verano came out with a good score in the IIHS tests for front and side crash tests, roof strength test, and rear impact test. The Verano also features standard electronic stability control, which the IIHS requires for Top Safety Pick designation.
“GM set a goal that every new product would be designed to meet or exceed the third-party metrics that IIHS and others use to communicate crash worthiness to consumers,” said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety. “We are now seeing the results from that commitment.”
Of the GM vehicles that made it to IIHS’s 2012 Top Safety Pick award list, 13 models had previously qualified for the 2011 award. These vehicles were carried over to 2012 because its structure is substantially the same as the IIHS tested for 2011. Carrying over for 2012 awards are the Buick LaCrosse, Regal and Enclave; the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic, Volt, Equinox, Malibu and Traverse; the Cadillac CTS (sedan) and SRX, and GMC Terrain and Acadia.
To celebrate its first birthday, Nissan employed the assistance of electrical sockets to sing the Leaf its birthday song. Dubbed “Singing Sockets”, the video/commercial wishes the first and only mass-produced electric car a very happy birthday.
Nissan will also be taking to Facebook and Twitter (follow #LEAFBday) to celebrate with their owners, looking for videos, photos and memories from the Leaf’s first year of existence.
Check out Nissan’s Singing Sockets video after the break.
Following in the wake of the highly publicized Chevrolet Volt battery fire issue, GM is now working to fix the problems, which are said to include adding reinforcements around the car’s battery pack along with protection to prevent coolant leakage as well as laminating electrical circuits.
However, the cost in doing so will reportedly work out to about $9 million, which translates to around $1,000 per Volt currently on the road.
Nonetheless despite the fires, reportedly caused by coolant leaking and then crystalizing to cause electrical shorts, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (which reported no fires as the result of its own crash testing) have plans to change the five-star crash ratings they awarded the Volt earlier this year.
GM, despite offering a free loaner program to concerned customers, is also saying that the Volt poses no immediate fire risk to customers following an accident, a sentiment echoed by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. So far, around 33 customers have taken advantage of GM’s loaner program.
The Chevrolet Volt was a big part of the restructuring deal General Motors had with the Obama Administration, when it applied for bail-out money.
Now that the vehicle is here, it is not without its problems. Sales of this plug-in hybrid have not been great, and these days, everyone is talking about the recent crash-related fires.
In the last few months, some Volt’s have caught fire and many believe it was linked to its battery system.
Now GM is working on a solution to prevent any future fire issues with the battery. The proposed solutions include laminating the circuitry in the battery, reinforcing the case around the battery pack, and better protecting the coolant system from leaks in a severe accident.
The cost of fixing the issue will cost GM roughly $1,000 per Volt, or about $9-million. This solution, if it works, will still be a lot cheaper than it would be to redevelop a new battery from scratch.
Many believe that the government knew about the risks involved with the Volt, but hid the information to give this car a chance to sell. Negative publicity is never a good thing for a new product, especially one it’s banking its future on. A U.S. Housing committee will meet in January to investigate this matter in more detail.
Meanwhile, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) said on Monday that it does not plan to change its five-star rating for the Volt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has no plans to change its five-star rating for the Volt. Consumers look at results from both these parties to determine which vehicles are safe.
Meanwhile, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson said that the company would buy back any Volt from a concerned customer, or provide any loaner vehicle to its customer while the Volt is being fixed. Will this gesture work? Time will tell. But since the Volt wasn’t flying out of the showroom’s in the first place, the current negative publicity could really damage its future sales.
[Source: Automotive News]
The buy back statement originally came from GM CEO Dan Akerson, but GM’s PR department stepped in by backpedaling on that offer. Nonetheless, after receiving a couple dozen inquiries on the buy back program, GM says that they’ll ultimately buy back the Volts from any unhappy customers. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to urge current owners to take advantage of their loaner program.
The investigation into the fire is still ongoing, but neither GM nor NHTSA have reports of fires from actual customers. We’re still happy to see that GM’s actions will continue to be guided by their customers’ satisfaction.
[Source: Detroit News]
General Motors is clearly taking the initiative in doing damage control with their Chevrolet Volt, first offering free loaners to Volt owners during the NHTSA investigation, and now offering to buy back Volts from any concerned owner. GM reassured that the cars are safe, but will have no reservations in purchasing back the vehicles.
They also reiterated that once the investigation is over, they will recall all of the 6,000-plus Volts on the road in order to repair them once the cause of the fires are determined.
Unfortunately all the negative media surrounding the fire risk doesn’t really emphasize that they occurred in extreme testing situations – situations that could probably cause traditional gasoline-powered vehicles to burst into flames. Nissan‘s Leaf has not had any post-crash fire incidents due to its battery being air-cooled rather than liquid-cooled.
GM did announce that 16 current Volt owners inquired about the loaner car program but only two have taken advantage of it.
[Source: Associated Press]
GM set a lofty goal of selling 10,000 Chevrolet Volts in 2011 and has finally admitted that they won’t be able to hit their target sales mark this year and probably won’t be achieved until sometime in early 2012.
Through the first 11 months of the year, Chevrolet has successfully moved 6,142 Volts while their main competitor, Nissan‘s Leaf, has sold 8,720 vehicles.
But nothing is stopping GM from being optimistic for its Volt from now and beyond. By expanding sales to more states, GM enjoyed its best Volt-sales month in November, moving 1,139 units. They’re hoping by year’s end the plug-in hybrid will be available in all 50 states. For 2012 however, GM looks to be even more ambitious, telling CNBC last month that they hope to move number 45,000 Volt by next year.
Here’s to hoping this goes away quickly, eh GM?
[Source: Left Lane News]
Some good news for Chevrolet‘s Volt has hit the news today, with Consumer Reports saying that the electric car has the single highest rate of owner satisfaction of any car this year.
CR did also mention that the survey was conducted prior to the media’s reports of the battery-pack fires, but it appears that the majority of Volt owners aren’t bothered by those reports and stand by their eco-friendly investments.
According to the survey, an overwhelming 93-percent of Volt owners say they would purchase the vehicle again. The next two cars on the lists were Porsche’s 911 and Dodge’s Hemi V8-powered Challenger. To us though, these survey results should have an asterisk beside them. Most consumers investing into a vehicle, especially an electric one, will always reassure themselves that they made the right decision. Making the leap to get a first-generation Volt automatically makes you a rabid fan of the vehicle, and even if yours was on fire and melting down in your driveway, you’d still love it.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
Chevrolet‘s Volt has been in the spotlight almost since the day the first concept was revealed back in 2006. Yet the most recent round of publicity probably isn’t as positive as General Motors would like.
It focuses on the wake of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation, regarding three battery fires that resulted from Chevy Volt crash tests conducted by the agency.
In response GM has sent out letters detailing the findings of the investigation to some 2,500 dealers across the US and more than 5,000 Volt owners. It has also instigated a nationwide program of offering loaner vehicles to Volt customers who feel their vehicles are unsafe.
Yet, according to Automotive News, there hasn’t been a great deal of flag raising among concessionaires across the US, nor their existing Volt customers. One dealer, in Los Angeles, said his staff will refer customers to a GM provided on-site Volt adviser if they raise the issue concerning the battery fires, though so far nobody has expressed any concern in the matter.
Another dealer in Newport News, Virginia reported much the same scenario. Danny Lane, new vehicle sales manager at Casey Chevrolet said that while staff have been trained to handle questions from customers, “none of them so far has said anything [about the issue].”
[Source: Automotive News]
The report states that the ELR has been dubbed a 2+2, meaning two small seats in the rear, similar to a Porsche 911. The Volt uses a t-shaped battery pack that is adapted for a front-drive layout, but a 2+2 configuration would allow for the battery pack to be mounted in such a way as to clear a driveshaft sending power to the rear wheels.
Rick Kranz, the author of the piece, suggests that rear seat room would be compromised, but the 2+2 layout of the coupe – plus the use of the rear-drive platform shared with the Cadillac ATS – would allow for Cadillac to justify a price premium over the Chevrolet Volt, something that new sheetmetal and an advanced infotainment system would not be able to achieve. If this report turns out to be accurate, then the ELR could be a game changer, as the first front-engine rear-drive electric car on the market.
[Source: Automotive News]
Discuss this story at Cadillac-ELR.com
Despite the NHTSA stating that Chevy Volt owners do not have a reason for concern, just yet, General Motors is providing loaner cars to any worried drivers during the investigation. GM will begin to contact every Volt owner in order to clarify their concerns and each owner should receive a letter within the next few days.
There’s a bit of irony in GM’s strong stance that the Volt is safe to drive, yet they’re willing to offer loaners to customers that are overly concerned. But clearly GM is in full damage control mode right now, having delivered 5,329 Volts – every one of them that has the potential to catch on fire after a major accident. We are curious as to what vehicle GM is lending to Volt owners for a comparable savings in fuel efficiency.
[Source: Left Lane News]
While Chevrolet is readying a diesel version of their Cruze compact in 2013, an interesting tidbit of information leaked out regarding another gas-saving variant of the Cruze – a plug-in hybrid model.
Australia’s GoAuto reports that the Cruze will be a traditional plug-in hybrid, where the engine and hybrid system work in tandem, rather than the Volt, which is described as an electric vehicle with a range-extending gasoline engine. “Plug-in Cruze doesn’t make Volt redundant at all. Plug-in Cruze would have a different powertrain. Plug-in hybrids use both the engine and motor all the time,” said Jim Frederico, who is in charge of General Motors’ small electric vehicle program. “The plug-in Cruze has a place and it will be a hybrid.”
GM is testing an all-electric Cruze in South Korea currently, but so far it remains an experimental vehicle. A Cruze plug-in could debut as early as 2014, given the car’s strong sales and the introduction of the diesel version in 2013 (which a plug-in version would likely overshadow).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released an official statement in regards to the post-crash fire risk of the Chevrolet Volt. As a result of a fire that occurred at the NHTSA’s facilities, they will be opening a formal safety defect investigation in order to determine the fire risk of Volts after a major accident.
It’s worth noting that the Volt isn’t entirely the target of the investigation, but rather the potential of a fire in any electric vehicle following a crash. After the initial fire caused from a side-impact test, NHTSA conducted a trio of tests on the Volt’s battery pack, each involving damaging the battery and rotating the vehicle to simulate an accident and rollover. In the second test, the battery pack caught fire a week later, while the third test the pack began to smoke and spark almost immediately.
NHTSA did also announce that they are not aware of any roadway crashes that have resulted in battery-related fires in the Chevy Volt or any electric vehicle for that matter. They also wanted to assure that Chevy Volt owners whose vehicles have been in a serious crash do not have a reason for concern.
In the meantime though, the agency is working with all vehicle manufacturers to ensure there are safety protocols in place for post-crash incidents involving electric vehicles. These protocols include an attempt to discharge a propulsion battery, not storing the vehicle after a major accident in a garage or near other vehicles, and emergency responders to check if a vehicle is electric-powered after an accident.
GALLERY: Chevrolet Volt
As Chevrolet continues to expand its lineup into Europe, both the Malibu and Volt received top ratings in the European New Car Assessment crash tests. Both sedans got five stars in all categories and also made the Volt the first U.S.-branded electric car that’s rated with Euro NCAP’s top assessment.
“The Chevy Volt will be sold in Europe as an Opel Ampera and the Malibu’s appearance is its first in the European market.
The results confirm that both vehicles meet today’s highest safety standards. The Volt’s safety performance and propulsion concept highlight the reliability and practicality that is inherent to this outstanding design,” said Wayne Brannon, president and managing director of Chevrolet Europe.
Reports from the Guangzhou Auto Show state that the Chevrolet Volt has been approved for sale in China with a starting price of 498,000 yuan, or $73, 800 USD.
TTAC’s resident expert on China, Bertel Schmitt, astutely remarked that the kind of subsidies we see on our shores for the Volt are “…for made-in China vehicles only…” which could be why the Volt is priced so high in China. We’ll wait on an official announcement before passing judgement.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
The Chevrolet Volt will be able to qualify for California’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in 2012, after General Motors announced the availability of a Low Emissions Package for their hybird-electric car.
With traffic congestion in California a major annoyance for motorists, the ability to use the HOV lane – via one of the state’s 40,000 permits – will be a boon to Volt drivers. Motorists are normally barred from the HOV lane unless a vehicle has two or more passengers, but the sticker allows for single occupancy vehicles to be exempted.
A revised emission control system and catalytic converter help the Volt achieve Low Emissions status. Volt buyers in California will also be eligible for a total of $9,500 in state and federal tax credits.
A fire involving a Chevrolet Volt that had undergone government crash testing has led to authorities investigating the possibility of requiring emergency responders to drain the batteries of electric and hybrid vehicles following a collision.
A Volt that underwent a 20 mph side-impact crash test caught on fire several weeks later, causing the Volt as well as surrounding vehicles to catch fire. The crash test was said to have punctured the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery pack. General Motors said that the fire occurred because the battery had not been drained following the crash, though NHTSA officials said that ”we don’t see the risk of electric vehicles as being any greater than that for a gasoline vehicle.”
200,000 car fires are said to occur in the United States annually, but the issue regarding a battery puncture has led NHTSA and GM to investigate the matter closely, despite both insisting that the vehicle is as safe as any other conventional car. GM currently dispatches a team to drain the battery of any Volt that crashes, and is hoping to make the necessary tools available to dealers in the coming year.
[Source: Detroit Free Press]
A Chevrolet Volt that went through crash-testing at a NHTSA facility in Wisconsin caught on fire three weeks after the test, prompting action from U.S. regulators.
While the investigation hasn’t been made public, sources told Bloomberg that the fire was severe enough to damage surrounding vehicles. An incident also occurred at a private home in North Carolina, where a Volt caught on fire while charging in a garage.
While NHTSA denied that the Volt posed any extra safety risk, sources say that U.S. regulators have since approached OEMs planning to sell electric vehicles regarding the safety of their batteries.
When the much ballyhooed Chevrolet Volt was launched last year, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson made a commitment to sell 10,000 units for 2011.
Given that production got off to a fairly slow start at the Hamtramck plant, it seemed like a lofty goal. Since July, when the plant was revamped to allow for an increase in capacity, production has been ramping up, as have sales. By the end of last month Chevrolet had sold some 5,003 copies of the car, though with only two months left in the year, it means that in November and December it will have to shift roughly the same amount of vehicles in order to meet the projected target.
Nonetheless, despite the slim chances of that happening, GM’s vice president of sales, Don Johnson, isn’t planning on throwing in the towel just yet. During a press conference call he said “I’ve never given up on a sales target in my life. Given the momentum we’ve got right now [with the Volt], I’m not going to give up on it now.”
[Source: The Car Tech Blog]
California told 85,000 hybrid drivers to move over, literally. Now everyone is feeling the sting.
Starting last July the yellow stickers allowing hybrid owners to drive alone in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane expired. The move came in preparation for an anticipated increase in electric vehicles on the road that will be allowed to retain the privilege. Though it may be the case that EVs are gaining popularity, pushing hybrids into regular traffic is causing problems for everyone.
According to a study released Monday by the University of California-Berkeley, the change had the effect you might expect: regular traffic speeds decreased and HOV speeds went up.
That isn’t all though, traffic actually slowed in HOV lanes at points where drivers try to merge back into regular traffic because of the slowdown. In other words, drivers in both lanes are noticing new slowdowns.
The report was based on six months of roadway sensor speed and congestion data, and written by Michael Cassidy, a civil and environmental engineering professor, and Katae Jang, a doctoral student in that department.
Cassidy said there is still plenty of space for hybrids in the HOV lanes, even with the new EVs on the road.
The only new production cars available that meet the standard are the Tesla Roadster and the Nissan Leaf. The Chevy Volt doesn’t qualify because of a specific California emissions law, though Gm says it will be addressing the issue soon.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
The Chevrolet Volt has made Consumers Reports list of “recommended” vehicles after scoring above average on their 2011 Annual Auto Survey.
The Volt also scored favorably during CR’s evaluation (though it was criticized for its poor rear visibility and four seat configuration), but a full report won’t be available until next month when the new issue is released at news stands.
[Source: Consumers Reports]
If you are a driver, you are well aware of the rising gas prices, and this trend is not looking to reverse anytime soon. This is effecting the way people buy new cars, and according to Pike Research, more than 5-million electric and hybrid vehicles will be sold globally by 2017.
Also according to this report, the largest manufacturer of these vehicles will be the United States, followed by Japan, while the largest consumer of such vehicles will likely be China.
Currently conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight (among many others) are on sale, but as far as plug-in electric vehicles go, you have to pick between the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster. Soon, the market will see cars such as the Fisker Karma, Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i go on sale later this year.
So will the world be taken over by electric cars now? If petrol prices don’t change, people’s buying habits will change very quickly to save their pocket books, while also helping save the planet.
[Source: Auto Observer]
A few days ago, Cadillac announced that the Volt-based Converj concept would enter production. Well, it’s gotten a name change to suit its newfound status: look for the Cadillac ELR to hit dealers in a few months.
After all, a sensible, less-ambiguous name like “Converj” couldn’t be used: it had too many letters! ELR brings the Volt-based luxury electric car into Cadillac’s naming convention. Naturally, the letters don’t stand for anything, but “Electric Luxury Ride” seems to make the most sense.
We like to think somebody at Cadillac’s naming division is a big fan of Electric Light Orchestra (and fudged the spellcheck), and we’re going to bet that “Mr. Blue Sky” finds its way into an environmentally-themed marketing campaign when the car is released.
GALLERY: Cadillac ELR
Along with the Nissan LEAF it’s the most hyped car of recent times, yet for all the hoopla and publicity surrounding the Chevy Volt it appears that interest in GM’s extended range electric car is starting to wane.
According CNW Market Research, recent statistics bear this out. In March, more than 21 percent of so-called ‘early adopters,’ said they were likely to consider the vehicle. By July that number had dropped to just 14.6 percent. It’s a similar story with ‘electric vehicle enthusiasts.’ In March, around 25 percent considered buying the Volt, now the total is down to just 17 percent.
And in fact, according to CNW; in just about every category, new car buyers today are less likely to consider the Volt than at any time during it’s history. The big reason? The car’s rather steep MSRP. It seems most people whether enthusiasts or not just aren’t willing to fork out 40 grand for a Volt, even with incentives.
With findings like this, could it be a sign that the electric vehicle craze is running its course? Right now, it’s too early to tell, but there are indications that EVs may not be the solution some automakers originally thought they would be.
[Source: USA Today]