NHTSA’s fire-risk probe of Chevrolet Volt had impact on January sales

Article by Anita Panait, on February 2, 2012

General Motors only sold 603 units of Chevrolet Volt in January – attributed mainly to the negative publicity brought by the recently concluded investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The January figure was only half of the average monthly sales of 1,259 units in the October-December 2011 period.

This figure was also the worst since GM sold only 302 Volts in August 2011.

GM North America President Mark Reuss said it will take time for the plug-in hybrid sales to recover from the effect of the two-month probe by the NHTSA into the potential fire risk in the Volt’s battery pack. The agency commenced the investigation in late November 2011, after three Volt battery packs emitted sparks or caught fire days or weeks after the plug-in hybrids were subjected to government test crashes.

The NHTSA closed the probe on January 20, concluding that the battery pack poses no significant fire risk.

GM didn’t produce any Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly site in January as it has yet to receive parts that would reinforce the steel protecting the battery pack to prevent post-crash fires.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said production will resume thus month as soon as parts arrive. Dealers have also been refusing to receive Volts deliveries for fear that they could not sell it due to low demand.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for believing the Chevrolet Volt is a midsize sports sedan. It’s agile,d bears a solid wheelbase and aggressive stance, and exquisite detail is apparent throughout. However, a look under the hood reveals its electric nature.

Bob Boniface, Director of Design for the Volt, said that when they set out to design the Volt, they wanted their passion, technical know-how and innovation to shine through. He added that the Volt is not only a labor of love but one which portrays their vision and pursues the future in its drive for excellence. They were able to deliver an electric vehicle beyond what was thought possible to reduce drag and increase the number of miles on a full charge.

Trimmed, nipped and sliced down like a sculpture, the Volt has been streamlined to create the most out of its dynamic aesthetics. Using wind tunnels and monitoring the aerodynamism of the Volt, the work of the research and development teams really paid off as this reduction in drag has extended the Volt's electric range by eight miles and added a further 50 miles to a tank.

By rounding the edges of the car, air can more easily move around over and under the vehicle. The windscreen's angle has been lowered to aid this and fit it in with more contemporary styles, even extending to the rear. Moving across to the rear of the Volt reveals a spoiler with the same purpose and again no sharp edges for air to be caught on.

Both the interior and the exterior show considerable care that they’ve taken to create this bond and you can see it in every segment of the Volt from its wheel arches to the facia's and the wheelbase. One thing’s for sure, the Volt is more than just an electric fad.

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