Volt Fire Hazard Cover-Up

Posted: Dec 09, 2011 12:01 AM

Is the Obama Administration so obsessed with green energy and battery operated cars that they would compromise consumer safety?  Maybe so.   

In recent weeks, news of several battery fires in crash tested Chevy Volts has raised safety concerns about the technology.  The government has announced a “safety probe” into the problem.  The Volt is manufactured by General Motors – the same GM over which Barack Obama seized control, bailed out, and installed his own management. 

The Obama Administration has poured $5 billion into electric car technology, but as the Washington Post reports today, taxpayers “will not see a return on their money soon, if ever,” as plug-in car technology struggles to catch on in the market place.  Instead of creating “thousands of jobs” as promised by Obama, the nascent electric car industry is laying off workers and closing plants.  Consumers aren’t exactly rushing to dealers to embrace the new technology, either.  According to the Washington Post, 2011 sales are anemic; just two-tenths of one percent of the market despite heavy subsidies and media hype. 

On the heels of the Solyndra debacle and still unfolding scandal surrounding the DOE green energy loan program, Obama & Co. didn’t need another public relations green-energy crisis to manage in an election year – but they may have created one.

AutoGuide.com is reporting that General Motors and NHSTA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, knew of the battery fire problem with the Volt at least five months before disclosing the problem to the public or even alerting their dealers.  Here’s an excerpt:

"Apparently, way back in June, General Motors heard about a Volt fire that happened three weeks after said vehicle was crash tested, yet it wasn’t until November that the company, or NHTSA disclosed there was a potential problem, urging both dealers and customers to drain the battery pack immediately following an accident."

"As a result the public relations nightmare surrounding Chevy’s halo vehicle appears to be deepening, though a good deal of the blame in this case also rests with NHTSA."

"Joan Claybrook, a former administrator at NHTSA believes part of the reason for the delay was the 'fragility of Volt sales.' Yet she also believes that 'NHTSA could have put out a consumer alert, not to tell them [customers] for six months makes no sense to me.'" Read more here

When allegations of design problems with Toyotas surfaced in early 2010, in dramatic testimony before Congress, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rang the alarm bell advising anyone who had a Toyota to “stop driving it.”  Consumers panicked and Toyota stock prices plunged.  Congress summoned the Toyota CEO before them for a public humiliation and flogging.   Toyota recalled 11 million vehicles and was slapped with record fines.

Finally, a year later, a joint NHSTA-NASA analysis ”found no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous unintended acceleration incidents.”  But the reputational damage and impact of market loss was already done.  LaHood and the government hardly shrugged. 

However, the government doesn’t own Toyota stock.  It owns a boat load of General Motors.  Could it be a case of different rules for different people?  Is the Obama obsession with all-things-green so overwhelming as to cover-up the Volt battery fire hazard rather than risk a public relations nightmare for the car he bet would save Detroit – and help his re-election chances? 

As with Solyndra and Fast & Furious, the failure of timely disclosure of the possible fire safety hazard with the Volt leaves the Obama Administration with only two explanation options: either an intentional cover-up of the truth, or gross incompetence.  Neither are qualifications for four more years.