In an unprecedented move, General Motors announced it would buy back Chevrolet Volts of owners who are concerned about fire risks to their vehicles. In the announcement made last Thursday, the company also promised to comply with changes to the battery pack design based on the recommendations of federal regulators.
The announcement was made in an interview with GM’s CEO Daniel Akerson by the Associated Press. Akerson reiterated the safety of the plug-in hybrid but offered the Volt owners that the company would buy back the units from unsatisfied customers.
This buyback offer was confirmed by GM spokesman, Rob Peterson. He said, “If there’s a customer that wants to sell back their Volt, we’ll buy it back from them.”
This is an unusual move for car companies as the common process is to have recalls when regulators or customers report issues with its cars or parts. The last one done was Ford Motors, when it offered to repurchase older Windstar vans in 2010 when rear axle issues were brought forth for investigation.
In this case, the Volt has been put under the microscope after the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration when last November 25 that an investigation was being undertaken as to the 400 pound battery array of the vehicle.
In a previous move, the car maker offered free loaner cars to all Volt owners while the investigation is ongoing on the possible safety issues to the lithium-ion batteries. The NHTSA reported two post crash fires to the battery pack of the Volt. The first one occurred three weeks after the battery was damaged while the second one occurred after a week. A third one started to spew smoke and sparks started to fly after a simulated crash test.
In another interview, Akerson said that the company would make design changes to the battery pack of the Volt if they are recommended after the investigation made by federal officials. He said the alterations would be done “if there’s an engineering solution required” to increase the safety of the vehicle.
Some owners though are not too concerned with the federal investigation. One owner, Eric Rotbard, a lawyer in White Plains said “It just has to be treated carefully in the event of a crash. I really am not worried. We just have to get more comfortable with the technology. It doesn’t seem to be any less safe for me.”
In a fit of irony, GM reported that November 2011 was the best month in terms of Volt sales since its introduction last year. The company said there were 1,139 Volts in November, making 2011 numbers reach 6,142. The company though recognized that it would not be able to achieve its target of selling 10,000 Volts for the year.