WASHINGTON – General Motors' Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson testified on Jan. 25, 2012, before a U.S. House subcommittee, defending the Chevrolet Volt's overall safety record. He also detailed the steps GM took to inform vehicle owners and engineer a solution to better protect the vehicle's battery.
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending questioned Akerson about the Volt's safety and whether NHTSA delayed releasing information about a potential post-crash battery fire in the vehicle. NHTSA formally declared the investigation closed in late January.
The initial report issued by the House subcommittee opened with the following statement:
“The delayed public notification of serious safety concerns relating to the Chevy Volt raises significant concerns regarding the unnatural relationship between General Motors (GM), Chrysler and the Obama Administration.”
Akerson had the following to say regarding the Volt while testifying:
“We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first,” Akerson said. “And, we engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at General Motors.
“Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer. Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features - we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag. And that, sadly, is what it’s become.
“For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world. In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident. In one test, the fire occurred seven days after a simulated crash. In another, it took three weeks after the test. Not three minutes. Not three hours. Not three days. Three weeks. Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk? No.”
Akerson went on to say that GM rapidly engineered a solution, contacted every Volt owner and offered each a loaner car until the issue was settled, and even offered to buy back the vehicles.
The following video from WXYZ TV Detroit (originally posted on YouTube) features footage from the hearing and a brief overview.
By Greg Basich