GM fully cooperated with the NHTSA as the federal agency investigated a number of fires that occurred during crash testing of the Volt.
Fortunately, Volts out and about on the street haven’t caught fire after an actual accident, as the combustion seems to be limited to crash testing. Nevertheless, GM decided to offer concerned Volt owners a free loaner car until the investigation ended.
Eventually, the cause of the fires was attributed to damage the battery pack caused from side impacts.
The fix? Recall all Volts in the wild and have Chevy dealers weld in a steel plate to better protect the battery pack in the event of an accident.
Of course, Chevy is obviously faced with an even bigger challenge than simply welding steel plates and protecting battery packs – polishing the Volt’s image back to where it was before the fire story broke.
Obviously, GM doesn’t sell many Volt cars compared to other vehicles it produces. However, the Volt is a GM halo car, meaning, it is supposed to lure prospective buyers into GM dealerships where they may leave with a Volt or a conventional vehicle.
Indeed, as a technology and engineering showpiece, the Volt was immensely important to GM. The biggest issue the automotive company now faces is telling the masses that the Volt’s issues have been safely fixed.
“It’s not unlike a story that’s written that says somebody has committed a murder, and the next day they say, ‘Oh they didn’t, sorry.’ It’s been in the news,” an analyst with Baum & Associates told BusinessWeek.
“This is a reputation car. They want people to look at General Motors positively and not necessarily buy a Volt but buy a Cruze or buy a Malibu. I think they’ll spend a lot of money to make that case.”
The fires have certainly charred the Volt’s image. However, I think the car will be able to recover from the bad press and fire issue. Frankly, the Volt was probably never going to sell in high volume, so the real impact for GM is likely going to be collateral. Meaning, some will likely never forget that the automotive company failed to safely engineer its halo green car before it hit the streets.