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Transpo Chief LaHood Denies Hiding Volt Defect

NHTSA facing Congressional scrutiny.

by on Dec.09, 2011

GM CEO Dan Akerson is being grilled by a Republican House leader over Volt battery concerns.

The nation’s top automotive regulator is denying his department attempted to hide a potentially serious safety problem with the Chevrolet Volt.

Despite waiting months before revealing that one of the plug-in hybrids had caught fire after a May crash test, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said his department needed time to see what actually caused the fire in a yard used to hold vehicles after they were tested.

The incident – and a second test-related fire, last month, involving a Volt – have raised concerns about the safety of the Chevy hatchback’s battery pack.  But while the DoT’s automotive arm, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has begun a formal investigation of the Volt, the initial delay has led critics to question if there was a political motive at work.

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“Absolutely not true,” countered LaHood when asked about the criticism, which is largely being fueled by Republicans, including California Congressman Darrell Issa.

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Feds Step Up Investigation in Wake of New Chevy Volt Fires

New tests raise additional concerns.

by on Nov.28, 2011

NHTSA has now launched a formal investigation after an additional fire in a Chevy Volt battery pack it was crash-testing.

Already concerned about a battery fire that followed the spring crash test of a Chevrolet Volt, federal safety regulators have opened a new investigation as the result of additional fires involving Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.

Company officials have already blamed the initial incident on a failure to follow proper procedures following the crash test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they contend the Volt is safe despite the latest fires.  But the new study could create a serious problem for the automaker as it gets ready to push for a six-fold increase in sales of the plug-in hybrid next year.

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In a statement, GM said it has “worked closely” with the NHTSA and wasn’t surprised by the news the agency would launch a formal investigation.  But the maker also declared the volt “is safe and does not present undue risk as part of normal operation or immediately after a severe crash.”

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Did Feds Inadvertently Cause Chevy Volt Fire?

Feds didn't follow protocol after crash test.

by on Nov.11, 2011

Did NHTSA inadvertently cause a fire after crash testing a Chevrolet Volt?

Copyright 2011 by TheDetroitBureau.com

The spotlight is on the Chevrolet Volt following word that one of the plug-in hybrids caught fire while being tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But TheDetroitBureau.com has learned that the fire was readily preventable had a few simple steps been taken after a Volt was put through a series of tests three weeks earlier.

Federal regulators have promised a full investigation of the spring incident in which the Volt caught fire and burned several nearby vehicles.  That has raised serious questions about the safety of its batteries, though GM officials say it may instead require adapting federal crash tests – as well as what happens in the field in the event of a real collision.

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The fire occurred at a private facility in Wisconsin where the NHTSA conducts crash tests on new vehicles.  On May 12, the battery car was subject to a so-called “pole” test, where it is rammed into a barrier at 20 mph to simulate a side impact.  The vehicle was then subject to what is known informally as the “rotisserie test,” where it is rolled over into various positions to test for leaks that might have occurred during the crash.

Ironically, the Volt did well enough to earn a five-star rating, the best possible.

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Leaf, Volt Earn Top Crash Ratings

IIHS announces results of first-ever mainstream battery-car crash tests.

by on Apr.26, 2011

The new Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt battery cars earn IIHS Top Safety Pick endorsements.

A new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety should calm those concerned about the safety of the new battery car technology.  After a series of crash tests, the IIHS has awarded the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt its highest safety ratings

The trade group says the results – which came from the first test of mainstream battery-powered vehicles – shows that the industry is putting the same focus on safety engineering for the new vehicles that is going into today’s more conventional vehicles.

Volt and Leaf not earned the institute’s top, “Good” rating in front, side, rear and rollover crash protection, but were named IIHS “Top Safety Picks.”

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“What powers the wheels is different, but the level of safety for the Volt and Leaf is as high as any of our other top crash test performers,” said Joe Nolan, IIHS chief administrative officer.

The IIHS results add to the series of awards garnered by the Chevy and Nissan battery cars since their introduction in December.  Just last week, Leaf was named World Car of the Year by a panel of 66 automotive journalists from around the world.  Volt took honors as World Green Car, and was named North American Car of the Year by U.S. and Canadian journalists in January.

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