With news of more Chevy Volt battery packs catching fire after NHTSA crash testing, General Motors yesterday made an unprecedented damage-controlling offer: Any Volt owner concerned about safety can request a free GM vehicle loan until the issue's resolved. Yes, any car. Even a Corvette.
Earlier today, we received the official letter Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North America, is sending to all current Volt owners (they'll also receive a follow-up phone call from their Volt Advisor — a dedicated GM employee on standby for the duration of their ownership to help them with any problems with the car). The full text of the letter's below.
The letter includes news that GM will offer a GM loaner to any Volt owner worried about driving their car can drive a loaner car from GM until the situation's resolved. But the verbiage in the letter — "we will provide you a GM vehicle" — piqued my curiosity.
What car would the General be handing out to owners of the automaker's green machine? Any car GM makes? So... could you get a Corvette?
We're not the only ones asking that question. So are several members of some of GM's online fan forums. One forumite at GM-Volt.com said:
"I would temporally take a Corvette during the investigation. Other than that..... They aint takin my Volt!!!!"
So we called up a couple of folks at GM to find out — can you get a Corvette loaner if you're scared your Chevy Volt will explode into a fireball after sitting in a wet parking lot for three weeks after a car accident?
It turns out the answer is yes. GM will absolutely put you in a Corvette if that's what you so desire.
"Theoretically if you wanted to get into a Corvette, the customer's Volt Advisor will work to get them into one," said GM spokesperson and part-time genie in a bottle, Greg Martin.
"Obviously the intent of this program is not to provide a long-term Corvette test drive, but our priority is to make sure the customer is satisfied."
But Martin says that they're not concerned about a rush of owners running to grab a Corvette ZR1 or a Camaro SS for a multi-month green reprieve. Mostly because the type of person who buys a Volt presumably isn't interested in high horsepower for the type of drives they're taking in a Volt.
Pity. Because although I'm a fan of the Volt as a daily driver in semi-urban areas with adequate electric infrastructure, I also know I'd be even more satisfied with a multi-month "Volt vacation" in a Corvette if I were an owner.
But I do have to admit that this is a very shrewd PR move by GM and the Volt team. It's nice to see a company once known for "turtling up" in their shell-like Detroit bunker at the first sign of a problem finally being proactive and standing by their product.
Here's the full text of the letter from Reuss:
Dear Volt Owner,
You may have seen the recent news articles regarding the NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) safety investigation of the Chevrolet Volt. I'm writing you today with more details that, I think, will put things in perspective and make you feel better about your Volt.
First and foremost, I want to assure you of one very important thing: the Volt is a safe car. The Volt continues to have a 5 star overall vehicle score for safety in NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program. It was also given a Top Safety Pick Award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
There are good reasons the Volt is safe. Our team has put more than one million miles into making the Chevrolet Volt as safe as it is remarkable. After all, our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends are among those who own the cars we're tasked with designing, engineering and manufacturing.
Here are the facts behind the most recent news articles. In May, the NHTSA ran one of its most severe crash tests at a test facility in Wisconsin. The Volt battery was damaged and the coolant line was ruptured. Three weeks later, an electrical fire involving the test vehicle occurred.
NHSTA, working with GM engineers, has been running a program of severe impact and intrusion tests on Volt battery assemblies as part of its effort to understand and replicate the May 2011 incident. Thanksgiving night, NHTSA told us that one of the batteries tested was involved in an electrical fire similar to the one that took place in Wisconsin. As a result NHTSA has begun a preliminary investigation of Chevrolet Volt battery assemblies.
We are aware of no real world consumer incidents that have produced a similar result. These recent tests show a very rare set of circumstances: A severe impact resulting in the battery and coolant lines being compromised. And then the passing of a significant amount of time before an electrical fire may take place.
The Volt is as safe as conventional vehicles for its occupants – before, during and immediately after a crash. When electrical energy is left in a battery after a severe crash it can be similar to leaving gasoline in a leaking fuel tank after severe damage. It's important to drain the energy from the battery after a crash that compromises the battery's integrity. GM and NHTSA's focus and research continue to be on battery performance, handling, storage and disposal after a crash.
Even though there have been no customer incidents, we're taking steps to ensure your peace of mind. If you are in any way uncomfortable driving your Volt as a result of this information, we want to make it right. We will provide you a GM vehicle to drive until this issue is resolved. Contact your Volt Advisor to make arrangements or to answer your questions. If you are not aware of your specific Volt Advisor, the contact information is: phone: 877-4-VOLT-INFO (877-486-5846) email: Voltda101@gmexpert.com.
We take enormous pride in Volt and what it represents-a new era of electric vehicles that can reduce dependence on gas, reduce air pollution, and more. On-going collaboration between the government, manufacturers and other stakeholders will enhance post crash protocols and accelerate acceptance of electric vehicles.
There is nothing more important to us at General Motors than the safety of our customers. We will continue to aid the NHTSA investigation in every way possible.
We stand 100% behind the quality and safety of the Chevrolet Volt - now and always.
Thank you for being a Volt owner. By the way I am also a Volt owner, my daughter drives it every day and she will continue to do so.
President GM North America and Volt Owner (#1457)
But what do you think? Do you own a Chevy Volt? Tell us in the comments below if you plan on taking advantage of GM's "Vettes for Volts" loan program.