Because Congress has absolutely nothing better to do, they have called in GM CEO Dan Akerson and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Head David Strickland for a hearing this morning. Of course, it was regarding the safety of the Chevrolet Volt and the handling of its investigation, which the NHTSA recently concluded.
Balance the budget? Screw that, they’ve gotta rabble!
A subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee composed *mostly* of Republicans (oh, there’s a shocker) asked Akerson questions such as if the Obama Administration played a role in the Volt’s development, and still questioned the Volt’s overall safety. Akerson answered in saying that the administration has never had a presence in the boardroom or any input in the operation and insisted that the plug-in vehicle is safe.
Besides, anybody who has been paying attention already knows that the Volt’s development dates back well before the Obama Administration, even before GM went bankrupt. And since the House has nothing better to do, they could have at least done some fact-checking. But, all of those gourmet dinners courtesy of financial and oil lobbyists do take up oh-so-much time.
While Akerson had his fair share of hounding, it was Strickland who seemed to be in hot water, as the subcommittee grilled him on why it took so long to report on the fire that happened to a totaled Volt last summer. If you’re curious and would like to read the full Congressional report, we’ve got it right here. We’re also going to provide you with Akerson’s testimony below.
United States House of Representatives
Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs,
Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending
Good morning and thank you Chairman Issa, Chairman Jordan and Ranking Members Cummings and Kucinich. I welcome the opportunity to testify today and stand behind a car that all of us at GM are proud of.
Please allow me to start with some Volt history:
GM unveiled the Volt concept at the January 2007 Detroit Auto Show. In June 2008, the “old GM’s” Board of Directors approved the Volt project for production.
The battery story goes back much farther to the early 1990’s with GM’s extensive work on the EV1.
Drawing on that experience, we engineered the Volt to be a winner on the road and in customers’ hearts.
Today, I’m proud to say the Volt is performing exactly as we engineered it…
…In its first year, Volt garnered the Triple Crown of industry awards: Motor Trend Car of the Year; Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year; and, North American Car of the Year;
…Volt is among the safest cars on the road—earning 5 Stars for occupant safety and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety;
…And, 93% of Volt owners report the highest customer satisfaction with their car–more than any other vehicle and the highest ever recorded in the industry.
Beyond the accolades, the Volt’s importance to GM’s and our country’s long term prospects is far reaching.
We engineered Volt to be the only EV that you can drive across town or across the country without fear of being stranded when the battery power is drained.
You can go 35 miles, and in some cases much more, on a single charge…which for 80% of American drivers is their daily driving total.
After that, a small gas engine extends your range to 375 miles before you have to recharge or re-fill.
But, if the Volt message boards are any indication, there’s some real one-upmanship going on out there – with customers reporting going months and thousands of miles without stopping once at a gas pump.
No other current EV can do this or ‘generate’ that much passion among its drivers.
We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the US rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first.
And, we engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at GM.
Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer. Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features –we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag.
And that, sadly, is what the Volt has become.
For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world.
In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident.
In one test, the fire occurred seven days later. In another, it took three weeks after the test. Not three minutes. Not three hours. Not three days. Three weeks.
Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk? No.
Or, as one of our customers put it: if they couldn’t cut him out of the vehicle in two or three weeks, he had bigger problems to worry about.
However, given those test results, GM had a choice on how we would react. It was an easy call.
We put our customers first. We moved fast and with great transparency to engineer a solution.
We contacted every Volt owner and offered them a loaner car until the issue was settled. And if that wasn’t enough, we offered to buy the car back.
We assembled a team of engineers who worked non-stop to develop a modest enhancement to the battery system that addresses the issue.
We’ll begin adding the enhancement on the line and in customers’ cars in a few weeks.
And in so doing, we took a 5-star rated vehicle and made it safer still.
Nonetheless, these recent events have cast an undeserved, damaging light on a promising new American technology that we are exporting around the world, right from Detroit.
As the Wall Street Journal wrote in its Volt review: We should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet.
The Volt is safe. It’s a marvelous machine. It represents so much of what is right about GM and, frankly, about American ingenuity and manufacturing.
I look forward to taking your questions.