DETROIT -- General Motors executives said today that they have come up with a fix to a design flaw that led some Chevrolet Volt battery packs to catch fire in days or weeks after government safety tests.
GM will reinforce the steel surrounding the Volt's battery pack to prevent it from being punctured during a crash. It also will add a sensor to the battery pack to monitor coolant leaks.
The action is not a product recall but a voluntary "customer satisfaction program" intended to make the Volt "even safer" and give the more than 8,000 Volt owners peace of mind, GM global product chief Mary Barra told reporters during a conference call today.
Volt owners can visit their Chevrolet dealership for the free fix, which should be ready sometime in February, officials said.
The same solution is being offered to owners the Volt's European sibling vehicle, the Opel Ampera, GM said.
Probe still open
Barra said the fires that occurred in June and November after testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were the result of a puncture in the side of the battery pack that allowed a small amount of coolant to leak into the pack. The coolant then interacted with electronics inside the pack, igniting them later.
Barra said GM informed NHTSA officials of the fix but would not comment on the status of a safety defect investigation the agency opened in November to assess the Volt's battery-related fire risks.
In a statement today, NHTSA said it crash-tested a Volt on Dec. 22 with the newly designed steel reinforcement and the test showed no damage to the battery compartment, nor any apparent coolant leakage.
The agency said it will continue to monitor the crashed Volt as a precaution for one more week and that the investigation remains open.
"Preliminary results of the crash test indicate the remedy proposed by General Motors today should address the battery intrusion," NHTSA said.