Volt fire hearings turn into political brouhaha

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Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt fire hearings turned into partisan bickering and accusations after the NHTSA investigation wrapped up some time ago. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A set of congressional hearings about the Chevrolet Volt battery fire has turned into bedlam. The CEO of General Motors was grilled over the issue, and the incident has been turned into a partisan dustup.

Isolated incident

Last year, a Chevrolet Volt used in crash-testing caught fire in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration garage. It was determined the batteries had been cracked and leaked coolant after the crash, which caused a short and subsequent fire.

The fire was reproduced in further tests after the NHTSA began investigating, though all fires started well after crashes. There have been no similar incidents in Volts on the road, according to MSNBC.

Problems fixed

General Motors has fixed the issue by further reinforcing the battery pack, which the NHTSA found prevented the potential for a fire.

[People who’d rather have a hybrid than an electric could look at a Prius at Sandy Springs Toyota]

A hearing was held recently by congress, which resulted in the heads of General Motors and the NHTSA facing pointed questions and congressional Republicans almost suggesting the NHTSA investigation was part of an Obama administration conspiracy, according to MSNBC.

Partisan conspiracy theory

At the Volt fire hearings, according to the New York Times, House Republicans raked NHTSA chairman David Strickland over the coals by asking about investigations into the cause of the Volt fire. Rep. Jim Jordan (R, Ohio), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that held the hearing, asked Strickland if it was “normal” for the agency to say the car was safe two weeks after starting an investigation. Strickland countered that if the agency were to announce every potential problem it noticed, there would be thousands of them per year.

Strickland was further grilled by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Cal.), who asked how Strickland could say the agency was “still developing protocols” for electric vehicles, of which there are few on the market, and that he was “behind the power curve.” Issa further, according to AutoBlog, asked about the nature of the relationship between the Obama administration and the development of the Chevy Volt. The report issued by congressional Republicans about the Volt fire also credits the Obama administration with the tax credit for purchasing the Volt, which was created under the Bush administration.

GM bemoans hearings

After the hearings concluded, General Motors’ CEO David Akerson told reporters that “the Volt wasn’t engineered as a political punching bag” but “sadly, (it) is what the Volt has become,” according to MSNBC. Akerson also pointed out in his testimony, according to the New York Times, that the Volt was announced for production in 2006, when gasoline was $4 per gallon, without “any clairvoyant power to correctly predict the 2008 presidential election.”

The Volt has been certified as safe by the NHTSA and General Motors. The only fires observed in the Volt occurred hours to weeks after the car was subjected to crash testing.



New York Times


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