Great news: GM to “call back” 8,000 Chevy Volts for “structural modifications” related to battery fires

posted at 3:20 pm on January 5, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Say, remember when the battery fires in the Chevy Volt were no big deal?  GM apparently now will admit that the fires are a problem, and will shortly announce a “call back” that will affect more Volts than the company sold all last year (via Instapundit):

General Motors will strengthen the structure around the batteries in its Volt electric cars to keep them safe during crashes, a person briefed on the matter said Thursday.

GM will ask Volt owners to return the cars to dealers for structural modifications, said the person, who did not want to be identified because GM executives plan to announce the repairs later Thursday.

The fixes are similar to a recall and involve about 8,000 Volts sold in the U.S. in the past two years. GM is making the repairs after three Volt batteries caught fire following crash tests done by federal safety regulators. The fires occurred seven days to three weeks after tests and have been blamed on a coolant leak that caused an electrical short.

GM’s move is considered a step below a recall, which would be issued by a car company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What’s the difference between a recall and a callback?  The latter is entirely voluntary, and it should be noted that GM did promise to fix the vehicles if it found that the problem was theirs.  Otherwise, there is no difference, especially to the consumer.  GM has apparently concluded that it is their issue, but the nature and scope of the “structural modification” is not clear, nor why the surrounding structure of the car would be the issue.  However, this will be a recall of every Volt sold last year — just over 7600 — and a few from 2010, too.

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the AP report.  When the Volt crashes, the batteries need to be drained to prevent fires from occurring, and right now that task falls to GM:

GM said the Volt’s battery should have been drained after the crash, but it never told NHTSA to do that. Later, two GM executives said the company had no formal procedure to drain the batteries until after the June fire. GM has said that the liquid solution used to cool the Volt’s battery leaked and crystallized, causing an electrical short that touched off the fire.

The company now sends out a team to drain the batteries after being notified of a crash by GM’s OnStar safety system.

I presume this means electrical draining, and not the physical removal of liquid from the batteries, but … just how long will GM provide that service?  Who pays for it?  At the moment, the limited number of Volts on the road make that a fairly simple task, since only a few would get in accidents, but a wider distribution would make this an expensive task, and it’s likely that GM will at some point simply stop providing that service.  That would make Volts a potential fire hazard at any time, especially if not driven for long periods of time — say, perhaps, in cold-weather cities by families who use heavier and more reliable cars in the winter.

And given the Volt’s sales profile, it’s certainly possible that a number of owners have other forms of transportation.  According to GM dealer Mike Kelly, the average buyer of the Volt earns $175,000 a year in salary, which makes the taxpayer-provided subsidies for purchasing the vehicle more than a little ridiculous.  Since GM dealer Mike Kelly is also Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), he has proposed a new House bill to put an end to the subsidies for the car that he himself sells:

“While our nation borrows 42 cents on every dollar, taxpayers are paying for an electric vehicle tax credit that has cost tens of millions of dollars, and that largely benefits upper-income Americans. According to General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, the average income of a Volt owner is $170,000 a year.”

“I introduced legislation to repeal the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit because, quite simply, our nation can no longer afford to subsidize vehicles that not only lack market demand, but whose safety has been called into question. In addition to the Chevy Volt, which is currently under federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after the batteries of three crash-tested Volts caught on fire, the safety of Fisker’s electric vehicle has been recently scrutinized as well.”

This is a good place to start eliminating government interventions for social-engineering purposes.

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Am I mistaken, or has Chevy only actually sold about 8,000 Volts total?

Outlander on January 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM

Soon they will install a huge battery pack of 40,000 D cell batteries so the consumer can do it themselves.

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Hey Ford, how much you want for that cool Pinto name?

NoDonkey on January 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:23 PM

They should install something so that when the Volt becomes flames you can still keep on going with the fire and extend your drive a little more while it’s still hot, etc.

The Nerve on January 5, 2012 at 3:26 PM

All for a car that runs on uranium, coal and gasoline.

forest on January 5, 2012 at 3:27 PM

Government Motors vehicles now come with two exciting new luxury packages.

Luxury Package One:
Power door locks
Power windows
Moon roof
No brake pads

Luxury Package Two:
All of luxury package one
Add rear DVD player
Add two-tone paint
Add flaming battery

Bishop on January 5, 2012 at 3:27 PM

Is Wiley Coyote head of R&D at General Motors?

fogw on January 5, 2012 at 3:27 PM

Our forced investment is draining our wallets

Kini on January 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM

If GM wanted to compensate me with $170,000 annually, I would consider driving a Volt as my primary automocar.

Jeddite on January 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM

My dreams of driving an electric car to get to the high speed rail station are going down the crapper.

WashJeff on January 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Captain Scoamf will fix this and all will be bright again in the universe. all will be bright again!!!! Hail Captain Scoamf!!!

GhoulAid on January 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

So I guess we’ll be paying for the owners’ rental expenses, parts and labor?

Whadda deal!

Key West Reader on January 5, 2012 at 3:29 PM

If we recall Obama, we will solve a lot of problems in many industries.

seven on January 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Am I mistaken, or has Chevy only actually sold about 8,000 Volts total?

Outlander on January 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM

You beat me to it.

WisRich on January 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

What’s the difference between a recall and a callback? The latter is entirely voluntary, and it should be noted that GM did promise to fix the vehicles if it found that the problem was theirs.

“Entirely voluntary”? ROFLMAO. SO, if GM weren’t the magnanimous federal government/union thug owned company they are, people would just have to put up with their silly, stupid electric cars bar-b-que’ing them on a ride to the store?

Is ISDA involved in this “recall” definition, somehow? It sounds eerily familiar …

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on January 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

How much is this going to cost me now?

JPeterman on January 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM

No, they probably are talking about draining the chemicals from the batteries after an accident, which is why it would take a ‘team’ of people to do it.

Two words: cost prohibitive (or, effing useless if you prefer).

HopeHeFails on January 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM

I imagine the fix is more to prevent battery damage in the first place. No damage–no fire.

RBMN on January 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM

They should install something so that when the Volt becomes flames you can still keep on going with the fire and extend your drive a little more while it’s still hot, etc.

The Nerve on January 5, 2012 at 3:26 PM

These things you ask for are called: feet.

As in: get out and push.

A fire extinguisher would be handy, too.

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:32 PM

The real problem is you never know when lightning is going to strike, and that is the only way to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electrical power to turn on the Volt AM/FM stereo.

Ted Torgerson on January 5, 2012 at 3:32 PM

My dreams of driving an electric car to get to the high speed rail station are going down the crapper.

WashJeff on January 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Sounds more like nightmares!

JannyMae on January 5, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Am I mistaken, or has Chevy only actually sold about 8,000 Volts total?

Outlander on January 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM

My first response was “recall 8000 from where? a back lot somewhere?”

mankai on January 5, 2012 at 3:33 PM

They should install something so that when the Volt becomes flames you can still keep on going with the fire and extend your drive a little more while it’s still hot, etc.

The Nerve on January 5, 2012 at 3:26 PM

Maybe a rotisserie, so you can roast a chicken while you’re driving?

JannyMae on January 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Another stunning failure for the coal-powered car. I loathe subsidymobiles and the prigs who purchase them.

ya2daup on January 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM

And just who is on the hook for the recall?

Robert Jensen on January 5, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Ted Torgerson on January 5, 2012 at 3:32 PM

Good one!

ya2daup on January 5, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Am I mistaken, or has Chevy only actually sold about 8,000 Volts total?

Outlander on January 5, 2012 at 3:22 PM

I think you’re right. I’m almost certain the number hasn’t broken 10K yet. I think part of the reason they’re hoping to move production overseas is to cut the price so more people might actually buy this thing.

Doomberg on January 5, 2012 at 3:35 PM

will there be public congressional investigations similar to what Toyota had to endure?

a capella on January 5, 2012 at 3:36 PM

We have come a long ways, from politicians promising a chicken in every pot…to JugEars wanting to put a Volt, in every garage!

KOOLAID2 on January 5, 2012 at 3:36 PM

How many Volts has Obama purchased for the government?

GarandFan on January 5, 2012 at 3:36 PM

GM’s answer: Construct the entire car from asbestos.

Bishop on January 5, 2012 at 3:37 PM

“This is a good place to start eliminating government interventions for social-engineering purposes.”

Why…?

… It works every time it’s tried!

/

Seven Percent Solution on January 5, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Where’s Lily and Fallon? This is going to put a serious dent in our setting fire to Al Qaeda garages defense strategy. We may have to go back to lobbing Volts with trebuchets after all.

Trafalgar on January 5, 2012 at 3:38 PM

I take it the “Get ‘em while they’re hot!” slogan didn’t take off.

The Rogue Tomato on January 5, 2012 at 3:39 PM

The Volt is this millenium’s Pinto. Except all Volts could burst into a battery-powered inferno. More tax money down the drain to get these things back into the shop. Jackass-in-Chief and his Politburo must go in 2012.

What a stinkburger.

Philly on January 5, 2012 at 3:40 PM

I’m thinking that attaching four wheels and an engine to an FAE would be safer than driving a Volt.

Bishop on January 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM

“GM has said that the liquid solution used to cool the Volt’s battery leaked and crystallized, causing an electrical short that touched off the fire.”

Meh…

… Just like the new light bulbs!

/

Seven Percent Solution on January 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM

My dreams of driving an electric car to get to the high speed rail station are going down the crapper.

WashJeff on January 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Pumpkin chuckers…..a stealthy, low cost DoD research program.

BobMbx on January 5, 2012 at 3:43 PM

what red blooded American male (or woman) wants an electric car?

GhoulAid on January 5, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Refueling these things must be like the Back to the Future scene where they try to feed plutonium into the time machine. Maybe they should turn the $7,500 subsidy into a pair of free bio hazmat suits with every purchase.

JeremiahJohnson on January 5, 2012 at 3:44 PM

You know one of the great analyses of WWII is that the US paid a lot of money for things that would wind up: destroyed, sunk, burned to a crisp, used once and thrown away, expended to no use whatsoever (the analysis of bullets expended to kills was fascinating), and generally lost or put in a storehouse for decades.

Enter Obama and the Chevy Volt that now begins us on the path of expending lots of money for something that burns up to no good use whatsoever.

Soon the government will MANDATE THIS for everything it does.

Want a grant?

Do you have life insurance, because you’re gonna need it.

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Maybe they should have called it the Chevy Flame.

darwin on January 5, 2012 at 3:45 PM

Brilliant!

A payoff to both the unions AND the trial lawyers.

Who says Barry’s noodle is limp?

NoDonkey on January 5, 2012 at 3:46 PM

According to General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, the average income of a Volt owner is $170,000 a year.”

Ah, the 1%.

Marcola on January 5, 2012 at 3:47 PM

No, they probably are talking about draining the chemicals from the batteries after an accident, which is why it would take a ‘team’ of people to do it.

Two words: cost prohibitive (or, effing useless if you prefer).

HopeHeFails on January 5, 2012 at 3:31 PM

I agree with you. It wouldn’t take a team of people to de-charge the battery. Draining all the fluid from a battery pack this large would be a bigger deal. And what are they going to do then? Toss the battery and get a new one? That will be cheap and environmentally friendly. Refill it? Well why drain it in the first place? Changing the battery fluid doesn’t help the fire danger at all. What to do with the drained fluid? It is a very corrosive acid, you can’t just dump it.

Just before Thanksgiving a friend, who is a mechanic for a Chevy dealer, said he was going to spend a week taking Volt training. I asked him about the fire episodes. He had never heard of such a thing.

Now they are, just a few short months later, doing callbacks. This must be a very big deal. That is an extremely short time to go from, “Hmmm never heard of it.” to “We will fix every single one we have sold so far and send crews out to repair any car that has an accident for the undetermined future.”

Lily on January 5, 2012 at 3:47 PM

According to General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, the average income of a Volt owner is $170,000 a year.”

Glad I’m covering $7,500 of their car purchase!

lorien1973 on January 5, 2012 at 3:48 PM

I’ll wait for the Cold Fusion Power Cell to be perfected….

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on January 5, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Mike Kelly is my representative, and I actually bought my car from his dealership (not a Volt). He came in with the Tea Party group. He seems to be doing a pretty good job, to try to get the subsidies removed.

Night Owl on January 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM

The Emperor and GM seem appear to have no clothes.
They could cover their folly by distributing Leafs?

tomg51 on January 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM

The Emperor and GM seem appear to have no clothes.
They could cover their folly by distributing Leafs?

tomg51 on January 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM

No that is bad Karma.

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:52 PM

We may have to go back to lobbing Volts with trebuchets after all.

Trafalgar on January 5, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Hmmm, I think that with a little ingenuity we can still salvage the program. Perhaps our intrepid teams of Volt battery drainers can spray the enemy with flaming acid.

Not as elegant, perhaps, as a trebuchet flinging flaming Volts, but no trees will have to be sacrificed, so it is probably greener.

Lily on January 5, 2012 at 3:54 PM

How about a catchy slogan. Like “unsafe at any speed”….uh wait I think that one has already been used. No they brought back the Impala why not that advertising slogan?

chicken thief on January 5, 2012 at 3:56 PM

what red blooded American male (or woman) wants an electric car?

GhoulAid on January 5, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Not this kid…I buy older used vehicles that I actually can work on myself. I wouldn’t know where to start with one of those glorified BBQ/trash compactors.

Not to mention that my husband commutes over 40 miles everyday (one way). “Will the car make it today or won’t it” is not a daily question that I want to be dinking with. Not to mention the monthly electric bill. It’s only about 50 bucks a month now, and I like it that way.

sage0925 on January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Isnt 8000 about the total number of those they have sold?

paulsur on January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Lily on January 5, 2012 at 3:54 PM

A trebuchet flinging flaming Volts.

That’s poetry that is!

Trafalgar on January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

I hope Top Gear (the BBC version) can review the car before they all catch fire. I would love to see the Stig put one through its paces. Maybe even have a comparison between the Prius, Volt, and the G-Wiz.

St Gaudens on January 5, 2012 at 3:59 PM

GM has been making the new US Military Drones.

No wonder they’ve been crashing.

portlandon on January 5, 2012 at 4:10 PM

The latest that I had read was that there were only 6300 Volts sold through mid December. Of course the only reason for so few was lack of production. If GovMtr is recalling 8000 that must mean the dealers have a bunch on the lots. To me that would indicate that it is not a production problem for the GovMtr Volt but that the POS just isn’t selling even with a $7000 taxpayer funded rebate.

This ladies and gentlemen is what SMART Power!!!!!1111!!!eleventy looks like.

Wiley Coyote (& Jimmy Carter)is smiling.

jukin3 on January 5, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Isnt 8000 about the total number of those they have sold?

paulsur on January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Perhaps even that number is inflated. It’s a safe bet that the majority of them were bought by gov’t and municipal agencies as some sort of fleet car. The sort that can only be used for a few hours a day.

Norky on January 5, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Perhaps even that number is inflated. It’s a safe bet that the majority of them were bought by gov’t and municipal agencies as some sort of fleet car. The sort that can only be used for a few hours a day.

Norky on January 5, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Isn’t that about all a government employees works in a day?

Texas Fluke on January 5, 2012 at 4:23 PM

The Emperor and GM seem appear to have no clothes.
They could cover their folly by distributing Leafs?

tomg51 on January 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM

No that is bad Karma.

ajacksonian on January 5, 2012 at 3:52 PM

It’s time to close the thread when reVolting puns start flying.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on January 5, 2012 at 4:26 PM

Trafalgar on January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Kinda makes me wish I made $170,000+ so I could afford to buy one to fling in my trebuchet.

Say what you want but if France had only developed Volts to go in their trebuchets, we’d probably all be speaking French right now.

Technology, especially Green Technology is where it’s at, friends. Good thing the US is not sitting back and waiting for some other country to take the lead in developing such exciting new technological wonders.

Lily on January 5, 2012 at 4:26 PM

I’ll wait for the Cold Fusion Power Cell to be perfected….

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on January 5, 2012 at 3:48 PM

I’m waiting for the Chevrolet Flintstone with no floorboards. It doesn’t get much greener than that.

hoofhearted on January 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM

When the Volt crashes, the batteries need to be drained to prevent fires from occurring

Doesn’t sound very green.

What is that fluid they’re draining from the batteries? Apple juice?

Is there a carbon tax on burning batteries?

MichaelGabriel on January 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM

I’m waiting for the Chevrolet Flintstone with no floorboards. It doesn’t get much greener than that.

hoofhearted
on January 5, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Threadwinner!

listens2glenn on January 5, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Government Motors is planning a new version of the Volt called the Smolt. It would require no recalls.

Chevy would add a natural gas tank next to the battery.

Thus when the battery explodes, for a very short time it will get vastly increased acceleration and unbelieveable mileage. But the big plus for GM is that there will be almost no evidence left.

Alferd Packer on January 5, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Really, it was the inevitable result of central planning. It is the Trabant of its day. Who knew we would ever see such a thing?

ModernConservative on January 5, 2012 at 4:56 PM

The company now sends out a team to drain the batteries after being notified of a crash by GM’s OnStar safety system.

Poor choice of terminology, when they say ‘drain’ the battery they are talking about discharging all of the stored electrical energy. They may/may not be draining the battery coolant, it isn’t the problem. The fires are the result of a short circuit caused by a coolant leak (ruptured battery pack). Apparently, this coolant can conduct electricity under certain circumstances (when it begins to dessicate). This sounds a little questionable, liquid-cooled lithium batteries, where the coolant is a conductor? It’s a little like putting gasoline in your radiator.

The more I know about the Volt the less I like it. No way this car would’ve ever made it to market without government intervention and public funds.

Archer on January 5, 2012 at 5:16 PM

I’m pretty sure this means that a new and improved subsidy is in order.

hillbillyjim on January 5, 2012 at 5:53 PM

The Emperor and GM seem appear to have no clothes.
They could cover their folly by distributing Leafs?

tomg51 on January 5, 2012 at 3:49 PM

i beleive it could be worked around with a recess mandate that everyone making less than 175k has to buy one. and we can get some economies of scale; get that unit price down to under 60k maybe. doesn’t seem to be any constituational restrictions there i dont think…..

t8stlikchkn on January 5, 2012 at 5:55 PM

President Obama, Lemon salesmen?

closetgop on January 5, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Excuse me, but when a car–ANY car–is involved in an accident and taken to a repair facility, isn’t it standard practice to disconnect & remove the battery, so that short circuits cannot occur? GM had no “in case of accidents” written service procedure in place? GM didn’t “tell” the NHTSA to drain the batteries, so did the NHTSA do anything but let the wrecks sit around? Any conventional car would be a potential fire hazard bomb after a wreck if it still had gas in the tank.

Yes, indeed, our tax dollars hard at work–on both ends of this fiasco.

Owen Glendower on January 5, 2012 at 6:22 PM

The Obama administration’s subsidizing of GM, Solyndra and the myriad ‘green’ projects across the globe is ‘redistribution’ of the wealth.

LizardLips on January 5, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Yo! Keep up the great work, Barry!

minnesoter on January 6, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Do you think AC/DC would endorse this car? On the one hand it is rather wimpy. But on the other hand it does explode….

It’s a toughy!

Sherman1864 on January 6, 2012 at 2:21 AM

“Recall” = “Call Back” There’s a difference? Who knew? This whole administration believes it can hoodwink the public with “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Pure Orwellian contortions that fool no one except the liberals and their water carriers in the main stream media. It’s the same as pretending that the ‘auto’ bailout wasn’t actually saving the bacon of the UAW!

Bob in VA on January 6, 2012 at 9:13 AM

I take it the “Get ‘em while they’re hot!” slogan didn’t take off.

The Rogue Tomato on January 5, 2012 at 3:39 PM

I don’t care who ya are, that there’s just funny.

runawayyyy on January 6, 2012 at 12:28 PM