General Motors (GM) will buy back its Chevy Volt hybrid car from any owner concerned about the chance of battery fires. But according to The Detroit Free Press, the company also said it would only issue a Chevy Volt recall if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) deems it necessary.
As we reported previously, there have been two instances of Chevy Volt batteries catching fire after sitting idle for a week or longer following a crash. In both cases, the vehicles had been crash tested by the NHTSA. The fires prompted the NHTSA to launch an official investigation of the Volt. No fires have been reported by people who bought Volts.
The hybrid Chevy Volt is powered by a lithium-ion battery and has an electric motor onboard to power the vehicle when the charge runs low. According to the Free Press, the crash tests punctured the Volt battery, and leaking battery coolant could have caused the fires in the two undrained Volt batteries.
Lithium ion batteries are also used in all-electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster. Crash tests of the Nissan Leaf pure-electric car have not resulted in any battery fires so far, the Fee Press said. But unlike the Volt battery, the Leaf’s is air cooled and has a steel cover.
Initially, word of the government’s Volt investigation prompted GM to offer concerned owners a free loaner vehicle. According to the Free Press, GM spokesperson Greg Martin said that so far, only 33 Volt owners, out of a possible 6,400, have taken the company up on its offer.
But, wanting to maintain good relations with Volt owners, GM will buyback the vehicle from anyone who requests it. But the offer falls short of an official buyback program, the Free Press said. So far, only a small number of those requesting a loaner have asked GM to buy back their vehicle.
“We are considering it,” Martin said of a possible buyback program. “What we’re finding is we have an intensely loyal group of Volt owners.”
In addition, GM has promised to send a technician to drain the battery of any Volt involved in a crash, and is considering altering the design of its battery.
News of GM’s decision to repurchase Volts from worried owners came the same day Consumer Reports released a survey naming Volt buyers the most-satisfied U.S. vehicle owners, with a whopping 93% saying they would definitely buy the car again. The survey was taken before the NHTSA announced its Volt investigation.