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.
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.”