DETROIT -- Chevrolet dealers are girding for questions -- but so far are receiving few, if any -- a day after a wave of media reports about a federal investigation into the safety of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
On Monday, GM sent letters to about 2,500 Volt dealers and more than 5,000 customers detailing an investigation opened Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA said that three Volt batteries ignited in the days or weeks following separate crash tests conducted by the agency.
GM on Monday assured customers that the Volt is safe and offered loaner vehicles to any Volt customers who are uneasy about the car's safety. So far, many dealers say they've had no takers.
"None of our customers have said anything," said Danny Lane, the new-car sales manager at Casey Chevrolet in Newport News, Va.
Lane said the dealership's sales team has discussed how to field customers' questions.
"Our understanding is that the car that [regulators] crash-tested sat there for a long time" before it caught fire, he said.
That was a key message in GM's letter to dealers and customers. It stressed that NHTSA's probe is focused on the risk of fire days or weeks after a severe crash, and that the Volt "is as safe as conventional vehicles for its occupants before, during and immediately after a crash."
Christopher Leggio, co-owner of three Chevy stores west of Los Angeles, says his salespeople will remind customers of the Volt's top safety rating from NHTSA. He says they'll refer customers to a GM-provided Volt adviser if they ask about the investigation, though none have so far.
"We've had no complaints and no comments," says Leggio, whose Mark Christopher Auto Center has sold about 40 Volts since the car's launch a year ago. He says he expects few if any of those customers will request a loaner.
Bruce Kelly, general manager at McClurg Chevrolet-Buick in Perry, N.Y., about 50 miles east of Buffalo, said his sales staff hasn't discussed the Volt investigation.
"We're a small, rural dealership," he says. "Our customers probably won't hear about it for a week."