GM to call back 8,000 Chevy Volts

January 5, 2012 8:41:52 PM PST
General Motors said Thursday it will make repairs to its Volt electric car. Eight thousand of them will have to be returned to dealerships for modifications that should help prevent them from catching fire after an accident.

There have been three fires that occurred days to weeks after the Volt was subjected to side impact crash tests in a federal lab. GM says a coolant pack around the battery was punctured. The coolant crystallized and caused a short circuit, starting a fire. The coolant is used by GM to keep the battery operating in extreme temperatures.

The plan to modify the Volt's battery pack is not a recall. GM says the intent is to assure Volt owners that their vehicles are safe.

"We're going to reinforce the pack itself, but we're also going to put a monitor into the system that measures the level of the coolant as well as a tamper-proof lid that will help prevent that coolant or fluid from coming out in the event of an accident," GM communications manager Richard James said.

The Volt is a major attraction at the Silicon Valley International Auto Show, along with the all-electric Coda sedan, on display in the Bay Area for the first time. Priced at $39,000, it'll be available this spring.

News of the Volt's battery problem hasn't done anything to dampen interest in the vehicles.

"Anything can happen, sure, a freak accident; not my concern," auto show attendee Roger Winslow said.

Rick Curtis has seven years experience selling hybrid and electric cars; now he'll be involved with the new coda at the Del Grande Dealer Group. He thinks one important step was forgotten after the federal crash test.

"The protocol is normally when you have an electric car and you do have an accident, you're supposed to disconnect the battery; they didn't do that, and I think that's part of the problem," Curtis said.

GM says the modifications will be done by next month. The automaker says it is also offering to buy back the cars from Volt owners, or to provide loaner cars.