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Volt has become ‘political punching bag,’ says GM CEO

His comments came as Akerson testified before the US House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending about the recent investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), which concluded earlier this week .

‘These recent events have cast an undeserved, damaging light on a promising new American technology that we are exporting around the world, right from Detroit,’ he said. ‘Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features — we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag. And that, sadly, is what it’s become.’

The NHTSA investigation began after a side impact tested Volt caught fire at the agency’s storage facility three weeks after being damaged. It generated mass global media attention, despite NHTSA statements advising that it believed the Volt was safe .

As a result of further testing, in which two more battery units showed increased temperature and sparking after being damaged, General Motors engineers developed a stronger protective structure  and added a monitoring system to avoid coolant spillages believed to be at fault.

Akerson added that he believed GM had acted fast and with great transparency, offering loan cars and buy-back options  for owners, and then rolling out the enhancements across all newly produced Volt and Ampera models made since the New Year. The same structure will be retro-fitted to existing cars in the next few months.

‘For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world. In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident,’ Akerson commented.

‘In one test, the fire occurred seven days after a simulated crash.  In another, it took three weeks after the test.  Not three minutes.  Not three hours.  Not three days.  Three weeks. Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk?  No.’

Akerson's speech can be viewed in full below:


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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.

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