Akerson to defend Volt, lament political point-scoring
Dan Akerson: “The Volt seems, perhaps unfairly, to have become a surrogate for some to offer broader commentary on General Motors' business prospects and administration policy."
DETROIT -- The Chevrolet Volt has received "a disproportionate level of scrutiny" by critics of General Motors and the Obama administration, GM CEO Dan Akerson is expected to tell a congressional committee tomorrow.
In a five-page copy of his testimony prepared for his appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Akerson stresses that the Volt is safe despite a recently closed federal safety probe into the risk of fire in the plug-in hybrid's battery pack.
"The Volt is a technical showcase for GM" and "establishes a beachhead in the electric car segment for future profits in sales," according to Akerson's testimony.
But he laments that because the Volt was launched in the wake of GM's government bailout and during a politically charged election season, it has become a political lightning rod.
"The Volt seems, perhaps unfairly, to have become a surrogate for some to offer broader commentary on General Motors' business prospects and administration policy," according to his testimony. "These factors should not be discounted as to why federal regulators opened an investigation into the Volt's battery safety."
In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation after two incidents in which the Volt's battery pack either caught fire or emitted sparks in the days or weeks after crash tests. An earlier battery fire occurred in June, three weeks after the agency completed side-impact testing on the Volt.
Last week, NHTSA closed the investigation, saying it does not believe that the Volt or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered ones. The agency also said that a modification that GM has proposed to reinforce the Volt's battery pack should make the car safer.
The House committee is seeking answers from NHTSA about why it took the agency five months to publicly report the first battery fire, which occurred at one of its test sites in June.
Akerson's testimony does not touch on the timing of NHTSA's disclosure about the fires.
"We have treated this process with NHTSA with the highest level of urgency and seriousness from day one," according to the testimony. "For its part, NHTSA has certainly been very thorough in this process and we have responded accordingly."
You can reach Mike Colias at firstname.lastname@example.org.