GM willing to buy back Volts from worried owners

Volt owners worried about their vehicle's safety can get a loaner vehicle, or just sell the car back to GM.

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt.
The 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

Volt owners can get a loaner while NHTSA investigations are under way, or GM will take the vehicle off their hands entirely.

Little known fact: OnStar is alerted whenever a Volt is involved in an accident, and within 48 hours GM dispatches a team of technicians to drain the vehicle's battery, which is the proper safety protocol for the vehicle, until it is fully repaired.

But that EV safety protocol may not be good enough for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association, and it may be cold comfort for worried drivers reading headlines about Volts catching fire three weeks after the safety agency conducted side-impact crash tests. Although GM says that drivers and occupants are in no danger from battery fires even in the event of an accident, they're willing to buy back Volts from owners.

Anything to keep their customers happy, said GM CEO Dan Akerson in an interview with the Associated Press. Akerson stands by the Volt's safety, emphasizing that conventional gasoline engine-equipped vehicles can catch fire after an accident. But the company is also focused on customer satisfaction, even if it means taking their product back for a refund.

GM has already announced that it will loan vehicles to Volt owners until the NHTSA investigation is complete, and 16 owners have inquired about this offer, though only two have taken GM up on it. No details on how the buy-back program would work were given.

This latest announcement shows that GM is taking this investigation seriously, and reacting swiftly to concerns from consumers and regulators. The company has established a senior engineering team to develop changes to the vehicle that will eliminate concerns of potential post-crash electrical fires. The auto manufacturer says it also will work with other car makers and industry organizations to develop and promote electric vehicle safety protocols.

It seems that by addressing the issue head on, the manufacturer is hoping to avoid dampening enthusiasm for its award-winning extended range hybrid. GM will miss this year's goal of selling 10,000 Volts, and is targeting 45,000 sales for next year.

(Source: Associated Press via Wall Street Journal)

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