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GM Contends Fire Problem Even More Common with Gasoline.

Maker aiming to downplay problem with Chevy Volt batteries.

by on Dec.13, 2011

GM struggles to head off a PR problem with the Volt.

Embarrassed by reports that the batteries in several of its Chevrolet Volts caught fire after crash tests, General Motors is fighting back by pointing out that there are more than 215,000 car fires annually in the U.S. involving vehicles fueled by gasoline.

GM is facing an increasingly serious nightmare in the wake of the fires at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration test facilities.  While there have been no reports of fires involving Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids owned by the public there are clear signs of concern among potential buyers and several Volt dozen owners have reportedly taken GM up on its offer to buy the vehicles back.

Meanwhile, Congress plans to investigate the issue, House Republicans questioning whether GM and the Obama administration are covering up more serious problems with the Volt.

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But GM is fighting back, pointing out that cars fueled with gasoline are also routinely involved in fires.  And the automaker has pointed out that after crash testing NHTSA routinely empties vehicle gas tanks.  It did so on the Volt but failed to also discharge the plug-in’s batteries as required by the maker’s post-crash protocol.