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

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.