Thursday, January 26, 2012

Akerson lays out defense of Volt

 It's not exactly news the Chevrolet Volt has become a political punching bag. But General Motors Chairman and chief executive Dan Akerson vigorously defended the Volt during a Congressional hearing this week. There was no effort by GM or the U.S. government to conceal any kind safety problem on the Volt, Akerson said. "We engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at General Motors. Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer.  Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features -- we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag, And that, sadly, is what it’s become," the GM CEO said. "For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world. In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident.
  "In one test, the fire occurred seven days after a simulated crash.  In another, it took three weeks after the test.  Not three minutes.  Not three hours.  Not three days.  Three weeks," he added.
 "Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk?  No. Or, as one of our customers put it:  if they couldn’t cut him out of the vehicle in two or three weeks, he had a bigger problem to worry about.
However, given those test results, GM had a choice on how we would react.  It was an easy call.We put our customers first.  We moved fast and with great transparency to engineer a solution.
  "We contacted every Volt owner and offered them a loaner car until the issue was settled.  And if that wasn’t enough, we offered to buy the car back. We’ll begin adding the enhancement on the line and in customers’ cars in a few weeks. And in doing so, we took a 5-star rated vehicle and made it even safer.
 "The Volt is safe.  It's a marvelous machine. It represents so much of what is right about General Motors and, frankly, about American ingenuity and manufacturing," Akerson, adding the controversy swirling around the Volt, much of its politically inspired, have cast "an undeserved, damaging light on a promising new American technology that we are exporting around the world, right from Detroit."
 Akerson also pointed out the development of the Volt was well underway before Barack Obama became President.  Some pundits, cable news airheads, blogs and websites have pushed the story the Volt was developed to please Obama. Akerson's testimony set the record straight.
GM unveiled the Volt concept at the January 2007 Detroit Auto Show, which means GM had been working on the car for several months before it appeared.  In June of 2008,  while George W. Bush was still President, the “old GM’s” Board of Directors approved the Volt project for production well before the bankruptcy and infusion of government funds, Akerson said.
The battery story goes back much farther to the early 1990s with GM’s extensive work on the EV1,he added. "We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first."  By Joseph Szczesny


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