GM will buy back Chevy Volts if customers are worried about fire

Some of the electric cars caught fire after crash tests. The automaker and federal officials are investigating.

December 02, 2011|By Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times
  • General Motors has sold about 6,000 Chevrolet Volts. One analyst said he expected few owners would take the automaker up on its offer to repurchase the electric vehicles as the company and federal investigators try to determine why several of them caught fire in the days and weeks after test crashes.
General Motors has sold about 6,000 Chevrolet Volts. One analyst said he… (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated…)

Afraid your new Chevrolet Volt will catch on fire? General Motors will go as far as to buy it back from you.

As safety investigations continue on the electric car, which caught fire following test crashes, GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson said the automaker would repurchase Volts from any concerned consumers.

The assurance marked an escalation of the company's response to the post-crash reports. Earlier this week, GM offered to loan free vehicles to Volt owners until the safety concerns were resolved.

"While the investigation is going on, we will do whatever it takes to allay concerns and keep our customers happy," said GM spokesman Greg Martin, "and if that includes repurchase, we will work individually with any customer."

Martin said that once GM's engineering team and federal safety officials figured out the cause of the fires, which occurred one to three weeks after the crash tests, the company would, if necessary, recall and retrofit every Volt that has been sold.

GM has sold about 6,000 Volts, Martin said. So far, about 30 owners have taken the company up on its loaner offer. Martin said details of how a repurchase plan would work had not been determined.

Auto analyst Jessica Caldwell of said the company was fortunate, in the context of the repurchase, that only a small number of cars had been sold.

"GM is only dealing with a few thousand cars," Caldwell said. "It's much more manageable than a widespread car, like a [Toyota] Camry or Honda Accord, which would be logistically very tough and financially very complicated to do something like a repurchase."

GM said there had been no reports from consumers of fires. "The Volt's a safe car," Martin said. "These concerns are based on three incidents up to three weeks after a severe test crash."

John O'Dell, senior editor at, said he didn't think the company would have to buy back many Volts, which travel on battery power for 40 miles before a gasoline engine begins to act as a generator, extending the range an additional 300 miles.

"It's an offer you can make when you don't expect many people to take you up on it," O'Dell said. "Most of these cars have been sold to the early-adopter customers.

"They are the least likely people to complain about the car because they want this kind of technology; they've been waiting for it."

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