Quality problems delay shipment of bi-fuel 2015 Chevrolet Impala

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 13, 2015

Because of a quality problem, customers have been waiting for nearly a year for the “bi-fuel” Chevrolet Impala that runs on both gasoline and compressed natural gas. It was in October 2013 that GM announced the impending arrival of the 2015 “bi-fuel” Impala. The automaker referred to it as the only production full-size sedan in the industry that runs on both types of fuel.

Dan Akerson, the CEO at the time, had made the announcement during a national energy summit. He said that this Impala would start selling in the summer of 2014. To date, not one customer has gotten one. In a May 29 memo, GM informed 3,200 dealers that its delivery will be delayed further because of a “second quality hold” as the automaker assesses the car’s CNG system, which incorporates a 7.8-gallon, all-steel tank in the trunk.

According to this memo, the tentative shipping date is “mid-July” and that some of the orders made in April and May won’t get produced. When asked by Automotive News, one person who ordered a bi-fuel Impala said that it has been over a year ago that he had made a down payment. He wasn’t told of the reason for the delay.

GM spokesman Chad Lyons didn’t offer details about the delay, saying only that the company wanted “to ensure the technology performs with the highest quality standards.” He said that a solution has been identified and that this will be implemented within the next few months. He revealed that around 200 bi-fuel Impalas have been built but they’re on hold to give time for the fix to be completed.

He assured that for the 2016 model, the production and ordering process are on track for the third quarter. This model is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine and two fuel tanks (1 each for gasoline and CNG), giving the driver the option to shift from one fuel to another depending on the availability.

GM said that a full CNG tank can allow the driver to go for about 150 miles before the car makes the switch to gasoline power, for range of 500 city miles overall. GM’s Oshawa, Ontario, plant, produces this model. This is where majority of Impalas are rolled out.

They’re then sent to Michigan to be fitted with the CNG system by a third party. GM priced it at $38,210 (including shipping costs) and said that it will arrive at dealerships in late 2014. In the past few years, more CNG vehicles from other automakers have been launched.

Because of new drilling techniques, there is plenty of natural-gas supply and this has led to lower prices. Majority of these CNG-equipped models are pickups or vans. However, several automakers offer CNG cars to fleet and retail buyers. Since the late ‘90s, Honda has been offering a CNG version of the Civic.

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