Kudos to GM for Volt Buy Back Policy
Michael PhelanDecember 02, 2011 10:00 AM
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According to a report in the New York Times,General Motors said Thursday that it would buy back Chevrolet Volts if owners were concerned about fire risks. It also promised to comply with any changes to its battery pack recommended by federal regulators. In an interview with The Associated Press, G.M.’s chief executive, Daniel F. Akerson, defended the safety of the plug-in hybrid vehicle but said the automaker would purchase Volts from unsatisfied customers.
Such a policy is rare for auto makers, which typically have to be forced by federal regulators to institute recalls when safety concerns caused by alleged product defects arise. Last year, however, Ford broke the trend by offering to buy back older Windstar van models with alleged rear axle problems.
The safety issue concerning the Volt is the potential for post-crash fires caused by the car's 400-pound lithium-ion battery pack. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a product defect investigation in November. NHTSA announce that initial crash simulations resulted in one fire occurring three weeks after a battery was damaged in a simulated crash; one fire occurring one week post-simulated crash; and one battery pack smoking and sparking immediately after such a crash.
GM is not only offering to buy back Volts from worried customers, but is also offering free loaner cars to customers who wish to wait on the final results of NHTSA's investigation. Moreover, GM is pledging to make any changes to the battery pack recommended by NHTSA.
Consumer saftey advocates should applaud GM for getting out in front of this issue before anyone burned up in a car fire. People old enough to remember the Ford Pinto will recall that this proactive approach was not always favored by the auto makers.