• The Chevrolet Volt's safety has come into question since a damaged model caught fire after a crash test earlier this year.
  • Chevrolet is providing free loaners to Volt customers worried about the fire risk.
  • The automaker won't offer buybacks, except in rare cases where customers feel unsafe and complain to General Motors.

 

General Motors is doing its best to allay customer concerns that the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt may pose a fire risk. The automaker recently announced it would provide free loaners to Volt owners worried about the potential danger, and further revealed it may even buy back cars from customers who feel especially unsafe behind the wheel.

Concerns about the plug-in hybrid's potential fire risk stem from an incident earlier this year, when a Volt caught on fire after its battery pack was damaged in a crash test. Since then, three more Volt battery packs were damaged by the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to assess potential risk, causing two fires.

According to General Motors, free loaners are available to any Volt owner concerned about the hatchback's potential fire risk until the problem is thoroughly investigated and solved. The automaker says just 33 of the more than 6,500 Volt customers have taken advantage of the offer, which provides for any other GM vehicle aside from another Volt at no charge.

But while General Motors will be providing free loaners to help ease concerned customers, the automaker stopped short of offering to buy back Volts, despite comments to that effect from GM chief executive Dan Akerson. While Akerson told The Detroit News the automaker would offer to buy back many of the Volts sold so far, General Motors says it has no plans for a buy back campaign and would only consider purchasing a Volt if a customer who felt unsafe driving the hatchback specifically complained.

Although General Motors and the NHTSA haven't yet determined the source of the fires, Akerson told Reuters that the automaker may consider redesigning the battery packs after one report suggested a crash test-damaged coolant line caused the battery to overheat.

Last month, Chevrolet reported Volt sales of 1,139 units, leading to a total of 6,142 for the year or around 6,500 since its December 2010 launch. While the Volt's biggest rival, Nissan's fully-electric Leaf, recorded just 672 sales in November, a whopping 8,720 units of the hatchback have been delivered since the beginning of 2011.

What it means to you:

The risk of fire is minimal, but Chevrolet must sort out these issues quickly before the highly-praised Volt suffers damage to its reputation.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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