Planet Gore

Chevy Volt in the News

And in the news, a lot.

First up, the Volt was named one of the “Worst Product Flops of 2011.

The above award award was issued before this news out today:

AP Source: GM to call back 8,000 Chevy Volts

General Motors will strengthen the structure around the batteries in its Volt electric cars to keep them safe during crashes, a person briefed on the matter said Thursday.

GM will ask Volt owners to return the cars to dealers for structural modifications, said the person, who did not want to be identified because GM executives plan to announce the repairs later Thursday.

The fixes are similar to a recall and involve about 8,000 Volts sold in the U.S. in the past two years. GM is making the repairs after three Volt batteries caught fire following crash tests done by federal safety regulators. The fires occurred seven days to three weeks after tests and have been blamed on a coolant leak that caused an electrical short.

GM’s move is considered a step below a recall, which would be issued by a car company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA and GM have said the electric cars are safe and that no fires have occurred after crashes on real-world roadways.

And this in today’s New York Times:

G.M. Aims the Volt at China, but Chinese Want Its Secrets

For General Motors and the Obama administration, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid represents the automotive future, the culmination of decades of high-tech research financed partly with federal dollars.

But as G.M. prepares to start selling them here by the end of this year, the Chinese government is putting heavy pressure on the company to share some of the car’s core technology.

The Chinese government is refusing to let the Volt qualify for subsidies totaling up to $19,300 a car unless G.M. agrees to transfer the engineering secrets for one of the Volt’s three main technologies to a joint venture in China with a Chinese automaker, G.M. officials said. Some international trade experts said China would risk violating World Trade Organization rules if it imposed that requirement.

The government’s demand is the latest example of China’s willingness to use the leverage of Western access to the vast Chinese market to extract concessions on advanced technologies. Policies to force technology transfers from non-Chinese companies have already helped this nation build big industries in areas like wind turbines, high-speed trains and water purification.

Western companies have complained that the tactics create an uneven playing field for business ventures trying to compete with domestic Chinese industries.

The dispute over the Volt threatens to lead to another trade dispute with the West and could affect the dynamics of a visit to China this month by the American energy secretary, Steven Chu.

The consumer subsidies in question are considered crucial for helping electric and hybrid vehicles catch on in China, which became the world’s largest car market in 2009. The government has made a priority of moving beyond cars that burn fossil fuels and emit polluting exhaust. At an industry conference here in this port city near Beijing over the weekend, government officials called for Chinese automakers to put new emphasis on producing more fuel-efficient and technologically advanced models, including gasoline-electric hybrids and all-electric cars.

Right now, the subsidies are available for electric cars made by Chinese automakers, like the e6 made by BYD, giving them a huge competitive advantage. The Volt, if G.M. proceeds with plans to begin selling it in China by year’s end, will be the first mass-market predominantly electric car imported to China by a foreign manufacturer.

You can’t really blame G.M. if they move their production of the Volt to China, as Volt sales here in America continue to disappoint:

GM’s Volt misses sales target as probe continues

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt missed its U.S. sales target of 10,000 cars in 2011, the company said. Chevy dealers sold 1,529 of the plug-in hybrids in December, leaving the brand 2,329 shy of its goal.

A slow production ramp-up kept dealers in short supply until last month, and a federal investigation of three fires that occurred after Volt crash tests lowered demand for the car, according to Bandon, Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research Inc. U.S. dealers sold a total of 7,671 Volts last year.

But December was only the third month that Chevy dealers sold the Volt in all 50 states. GM allowed dealers to sell as many as 2,300 demonstration models to retail buyers starting in late November, helping spur a 2.8 percent increase from October and the model’s best month yet. Volt sales through November totaled 6,142, the company said.

GM is expanding production to 60,000 Volts this year with 45,000 of them earmarked for the U.S. The Volt is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because its batteries caught on fire in the weeks following three government crash tests. NHTSA announced a safety probe of the Volt Nov. 25.

I would like to know how many of the $45,000 targeted for sale in the United States are to actual consumers and not the federal and state governments who are buying the cars to fulfill some sort of “green” mandate.

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