GM may redesign Volt battery, CEO says

NEW YORK Thu Dec 1, 2011 2:12pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Motors Co may redesign the battery for its Chevrolet Volt to address issues raised after federal officials opened a safety probe into the plug-in electric car, GM's chief executive said on Thursday.

"We want to assure the safety of our customers, of our buyers, and so we're just going to take a time out, if you will, in terms of redesigning the battery possibly," Dan Akerson told Reuters Insider.

GM said on Monday it would offer loaner vehicles to about 5,500 Volt owners as it works with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on ways to reduce the risk of battery fires breaking out days after crashes involving the car.

(For the full Reuters Insider interview with Akerson, see

The company also said it would not deliver the Opel-branded version of the Volt in Europe until its engineers and safety regulators had worked out how to deal with the 400-pound battery pack after any accidents.

The steps came in response to a decision last week by NHTSA to open an investigation into the safety of the Volt's battery pack. A lithium-ion battery pack in a Volt that had been through a crash test in May caught fire three weeks later at a test facility in Wisconsin, according to NHTSA.

In lab tests completed last week by U.S. safety regulators, a second Volt pack began to smoke and throw off sparks while a third battery pack caught fire a week after a simulated crash.

The probe has threatened the reputation of a vehicle that has been featured prominently in GM advertising as a symbol of the U.S. automaker's drive toward improved fuel economy.

"It is a safe car," Akerson said. "We just want make sure that there are protocols post-crash.

"We want to make sure all the Ts are crossed, the Is are dotted, and no one has any question about the car long term."

He cited the Volt's top crash-test ratings as well as Thursday's announcement by Consumer Reports that the Volt ranked the highest among all models in customer satisfaction.

Consumer Reports said 93 percent of respondents who own the Volt would definitely buy it again, making it the highest-rated car in the nationally representative survey.

However, Consumer Reports pointed out that the Volt, which sells for $40,000, has not been in dealer showrooms long and the survey was conducted before NHTSA announced its probe.

GM executives have said that the Volt's battery pack would be safe during and immediately after any crash and that problems were not linked to any flaw in battery cells supplied by South Korea's LG Chem Ltd.


Akerson also said GM is looking at more moves to fix its struggling Opel unit in Europe. While declining to go into details, he said the focus would be on boosting sales and cutting costs and could include shifting more production into Europe, possibly from Asia.

GM executives have said all options are on the table for money-losing Opel, suggesting to analysts that job cuts or plant closures could be options.

In addition, the European economy remains shaky.

"We see serious storm clouds, if you will, on the horizon in Europe; a lot of consumer confidence has been eroding," Akerson said. "There's a lot of uncertainty in Europe about the economy and whether it's going to go into recession."

He called Wednesday's announcement of steps taken by top central banks around the world to prevent a credit crunch among European banks "a step in a journey that needs to be completed."

GM said Thursday its U.S. auto sales in November rose 7 percent, short of what some analysts had expected. Retail sales rose 15 percent, while sales to fleet, or corporate, customers, fell 14 percent to a level where Akerson wants GM to remain.

Akerson said he hopes to end 2011 with the Chevy Cruze small car taking the title as the top-selling car. He also cited GM's Buick brand, which is battling to outsell Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus in the luxury segment.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Paul Ingrassia; editing by John Wallace and Gerald E. McCormick)

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Comments (1)
limapie wrote:
I want to publically call out this “American” company–GM.
This whole story has got to be a total in-your-face bunch
of bs.
I don’t believe for one minute that this company is
concerned with safety. Bah!
No, they are interested in redesign because
OUR TAX dollars have paid for the development
of a new revolutionary metal (see site below)
that will make 400 pound batteries as light as a feather….AND THIS “American” company just can’t
wait to hand it over to China! (see site below.)

I purchased plenty of Chevs in my life BUT NO MORE.
I wouldn’t go near this brand for all the cash in the

I would hope consumers in this country would take
note of what this TRAITOR is up to. For shame
For shame For shame. I would hope consumers
would not support GMs “efforts” and purchase
anything from them. They deserve to be dumped
in a big Grunge Mud can, if you ask me, and tried for
crimes against our nation.

“GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky…hinted that the Volt could eventually be built in China.”
“Californian scientists have presented a revolutionary material which could be of great benefit in high-tech devices, automobiles and space engines.

Scientists working for the Hughes Research Laboratories in California, The California Institute of Technology and the University of California have developed a new material which they have named Micro-Lattice metal.

Built from an interlinked hollow tube lattice having a wall thickness nearly 1000 times lesser than human hair width, this material has been presented as highly absorbent in compression recovery, with a strong resistance against squeezing (it retakes 98% of its initial form when it has been squeezed to 50% of its size) and is very light weigh (a thousand times lighter than water, as it is constituted from 99.99% air).”

(They say this lattice is perfect for batteries!)

Dec 01, 2011 10:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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