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Congressional Trial by Fire For Volt

NHTSA chief hammered for delayed report.

by on Jan.25, 2012

GM CEO Dan Akerson gets into a Chevrolet Volt on his way to today's hearings on Capitol Hill.

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson faced a trial by fire today – quite literally – when he was grilled about a series of fires that occurred following federal crash tests of the maker’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.

Akerson, by his own request, was one of those testifying during a hearing by a subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee with the provocative title, “What did NHTSA know and when did it know it.”  The reference to Watergate and former Pres. Richard Nixon reflected the clear contention of committee leaders that the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency deliberately delayed issuing a public report on the first Volt fire for at least three months.

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Some critics have suggested the agency was motivated by a desire to protect the Treasury’s stake in GM, which it first acquired as part of the bailout the maker received after going bankrupt in 2009.  But Akerson denied that, and in prepared comments told the Oversight panel, “The Volt is safe.  It’s a marvelous machine.”


Battery Fire Investigation Closed – But Volt’s Problems May Not Yet be Over

GM CEO to testify before Congress.

by on Jan.23, 2012

A NHTSA investigation into possible problems with the Chevy Volt battery pack has been closed.

The Chevrolet Volt got a clean bill of health, last Friday, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closing its investigation into potential problems with the plug-in hybrid’s battery pack – but that doesn’t mean General Motors’ problems with the Volt are over, as a Congressional hearing is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

The Volt controversy stems from a fire that occurred last spring, weeks after one of the battery cars went through a federal crash test.  A second Volt battery pack caught fire after being tested in November.  That triggered an investigation by the NHTSA – as well as hearings by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, California Republican and committee chairman Darryl Issa contending that the government agency initially tried to cover up the original fire.


Meanwhile, GM, noting that there have been no real-world reports of battery-related fires, nonetheless announced on January 5 that it will make a number of small but significant modifications to further reduce the likelihood of problems with the battery pack.