By on December 12, 2011

The Volt’s battery woes are having an effect on its European sibling. Automotive News [sub] reports that Opel/Vauxhall will delay delivery of the Volt’s sister-model Ampera, while investigations by U.S. authorities into battery fires following government crash tests of the Volt continue. An Opel spokesman told AN:

”We are not currently delivering the cars to customers while we set up the process to deal with these highly charged batteries to make sure they are safe.”

Opel had already started deliveries of the Ampera to dealerships in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland for y year-end launch. European sales of the Volt were officially kicked-off last week as two Amperas were delivered to the U.S. embassy in Paris.

Built with the Volt at GM’s Hamtramck plant near Detroit, the Ampera shares the Volt’s technology including the lithium-ion batteries. The styling is slightly different.

Meanwhile, even battery suppliers deem it necessary to keep a tweeting distance.

 

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55 Comments on “Volt Woes Spread To Europe, Affect Ampera...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    A few more weeks of this, and I think the already-bleak future of the Voltec platform is permanently doomed.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Maybe GM can just go away now. We’ve had enough.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I’m afraid we, the people, are stuck with GM for eternity. We own this failed and bankrupt company. Without we, the people, GM would have ceased to exist in 2008, and will cease to exist if we ever pull the plug. Even creative accounting is not going to help pay the bills. And GM’s got bills!

      GM can lose money on everything they make, including the Volt, and we, the people, will keep funding them and the UAW for eternity. It’s called too big to fail.

      OTOH, for those of you interested, take a look at the company formerly known as Chrysler! Since we, the people, bailed out that turkey and bribed Fiat to the tune of $1.3B to take its carcass off our hands, what was once known as Chrysler is doing pretty well these days. No doubt the Daimler touch.

      I even broke down and bought a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit V6 4X4 for my wife a couple of weeks ago. She’s happy.

      And I think more Americans will be willing to buy from this defunct company now that it is no longer American. Hey, it’s like buying an import from an Italian company, even though it is imported from Detroit.

      We should have done the same with GM. Give it away. Bribed the Chinese to take its carcass off our hands. Not only have we, the people, lost all that bail out money, but GM will need more funding in the future.

      GM and Obama bet everything on the Volt. What happened to the sales of the Pinto after all the negative press? Well, the same could happen to the sales of the Volt and all other EVs. Sales of the Leaf are already pitiful.

      We’re already on the hook for paying the UAW retirees through the PBGC, and that’s not small potatoes, either. Just look at it as your taxes helping to fund it all. The UAW thanks you!

      I think Bertel’s article says it all. The woes are spreading and I think we’ve just barely scratched the surface here. GM, both here and abroad, must know something that we don’t know about these EVs, and the government has clammed up as well. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Calm down – several factual errors. We do not own GM, we have a minority stake. We could sell all our shares tomorrow and the company would survive (we would loss make a loss but that is a different matter).
        Everything was not bet on the Volt. Say it fails, it would be embarrassing but the Silverado, Cruze, Equinox, Sonic, Camaro etc still sell in good numbers and the company has a good market share in all world markets (unlike most other leading auto companies).

        Are there problems, sure, but to say it would die if the Volt failed or if we sold our stock is just factually wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        Couldn’t have said it better myself. And @mike978, the ‘factual errors’ are NOT the point. GM AND Chrysler should have NEVER received a dime of taxpayer $ for providing inferior product and, thus, becoming bankrupt.

        Period.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Plans take a little longer to see-through than we are currently allowing. We are too busy hastily pronouncing new prospects failures to give them the time it takes to become successful in a proper manner.

    People aren’t all superstars bursting from the womb, lights burning bright– some need time to stoke their fires.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Friend of mine just recently bought a Volt and now swears that he’s practically driving free and that the (relative) lack of fuel use will make the car pay for itself. While I applaud the reduction in fuel consumption, from an economic standpoint, the number of years it’ll take him to make up the fuel savings is pretty long (when compared to, say a Cruze ECO or something similar that gets 40 MPG…and I know…the EPA ratings can be taken with a huge grain of salt) when the purchase price, even with incentives, is pretty steep. And the car was purchased right as this battery issue came to, er, light…

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Seems like your friend is saving lots of cash by driving less than 40 miles a day and not necessarily by not using gasoline itself. IIRC a full charge is 3-$4, same as what it costs to run a Cruze ECO for the same commute. I’m just wondering if it’s worth towing around the ‘dead weight’ gas engine/trans that he almost never uses when the same Volt minus the dead weight might be capable of a 50 mile average per charge. It would no doubt handle & accelerate better and could’ve cost 10k less, I guess. I’d say $10K in my pocket is a sure cure for range anxiety.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    Why are people so hasty to condemn? Give GM an opportunity to address any potential issues. I for one would love to own a Volt, and plan to within the next few years.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      Agreed. A fire 3 weeks after an accident, as Ed reported in a previous objective write up on the ordeal, is not worthy of the sensationalism surrounding this story. I sat in a Volt last week, first time I have, and I loved it. I would love to own one and stop buying so much damn gasoline.

      Other points:

      1) Auto Express (UK publication) gave the Volt an extremely high rating. Anyone who reads the European car mags/sites knows this is something unheard of for an American car.

      2) The Ampera has a switch that locks the car permanently into electric mode, huge for tax savings in congestion zones such as London

      3) Europeans are used to paying more for cars, so the Ampera/Volt shouldn’t seem so expensive in comparison to other cars

      In other words, despite the economic concerns in Europe, the Volt/Ampera is arguably a better fit for their purchasing behaviors than it is in America. IMHO, it’s got a decent chance at success over there.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Perhaps because decades of being used as involuntary beta testers has left the buying public a bit weary of GM’s perpetual dance of pronouncing “we’ve got it right this time. Trust us.” And then releasing yet another half-baked effort into the market.

      If it was a case of “give them a second chance”, it would be no big deal. But we’re now into, what, about the 17th chance? How many chances are they supposed to get?

      I sat in a Volt at the car show a few weeks ago. When I pointed out to the salesdroid who approached me that the screen printed switch labels on the dash would likely wear away after a few years use, his response was: “well, by then you’ll have memorized what they all are. And you can always use the touchscreen”. A monument to utterly missing the point.

    • 0 avatar
      damikco

      plus 1

  • avatar
    Rob Finfrock

    Sure seems to me that Opel (and GMNA) is doing all it can to keep this story in the news, which I can’t imagine being good for the Volt/Ampera.

    “We are not currently delivering the cars to customers while we set up the process to deal with these highly charged batteries to make sure they are safe.”

    Maybe this a translation issue, but that statement makes things sound far more dire than what GM has let on, and what is likely the case. Then again, I’m all for GM burying itself…

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      “Sure seems to me that Opel (and GMNA) is doing all it can to keep this story in the news” – Really? Or is it just GM taking sensible precautions since both cars have the same “powertrain”. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

      As for the comment you and others have made about GM going away – why? They are a profitable company, the market has spoken. You might not like the answer but be consistent.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        They weren’t too profitable before and when the market spoke we taxpayers ended up holding the bag. When the stock hits 58 a share and we get our investment back I’ll feel differently.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        The Volt debacle, whether real or imagined, that GM has created is proof of the level of distrust of GM and its name brands. People WANT GM to fail, for real this time. People are pissed GM was bailed out when they themselves were not, and have not been, bailed out. They expect and demand the best from GM.

        GM has mountains, MOUNTAINS, to climb before any little sprout of positive perception grows in the mind of the consumer. All you GM Apologists: You are warned not to discount how the negative perception of GM will soon turn towards ambivalence. .

        mike978:
        The market in fact has spoken, you are right. GM failed in the market.
        Interventionists intervened in order to curry favors and provide payback to the unions at the expense of debt holders.
        Now, the “New GM” which is the same as the old GM continues on the road to insolvency one more time.
        Again, spare the song and dance about the apocalypse if “GM was allowed to collapse”. Ford, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota would have taken over what capacity the market demanded and we would all be better off today. Only a person living in Detroit who works at GM in the labyrinth of its bureaucracy or the UAW worker who was promised free healthcare for life would have been effected. Everyone else would move on and have one or two fewer cars to chose from.
        Ironically, all of the GM retirees who were conned in buying GM bonds to “secure their retirement” were given the shaft during the “bankruptcy”. We don’t like to discuss those trivial details though.

      • 0 avatar
        alluster

        @ Mike – GM has grabbed the top spot back and is likely to never look back again. They will have fierce competition from VW in the years to come, but Toyota will be stuck in 3rd place for ever, if not lose that to Hyundai in the next few years. This falls in the face of global domination dreams for the Japanese men. They had to overcome years of ridicule for having small male parts, so one way to get back at everyone is to kill off GM and rule the auto world. Its understandable why some people want to sympathize and stick up for them (no pun intended). Check out the Southpark episode on pokemon and you will understand everything.

        So much noise made about the $50B bailouts made to GM, which was a one time thing and not likely to happen again, however lets look the other way when the Japanese govt spent $300 billion to help out their automakers by devaluing the yen, just in the last four months !! Talk about socialism!

      • 0 avatar
        Vega

        @alluster: Obvious troll is obvious. But the Yen thing was a bit too strong. Look at the Yen vs. the USD since 2007. The US has done everything to devalue the USD vs. the Yen since the recession.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        GM was the largest automobile company in the world when it went begging for a government bailout and then filed for bankruptcy.

        Perhaps, by this point, people should have figured out that “biggest” is not synonymous with “best.” GM has been proving that one for decades.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Rob, GM isn’t trying to keep this in the news. In fact, we knew this 11 days ago.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/gm-considers-volt-battery-redesign-halts-european-deliveries-will-miss-us-sales-goal/

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        I don’t think you understand my point, Steve-O. I know the news broke 11 days ago; I commented on it then. But why is GM keeping the story alive by repeatedly proclaiming how serious the problem is… WHEN IT ACTUALLY REALLY ISN’T?

        Follow me here. Within 48 hours after the NHTSA findings were revealed, GM said the issue was being addressed and, in the interim, any Volt owners worried about their (remedially-engineered) vehicles exploding out from under them could turn them in and take their pick of temporary replacement vehicles. GM actually ended that news cycle on a positive note, for once, and on its own terms. The issue largely abated, with only the diehard GM haters — a badge I wear proudly, by the way — continuing to gripe about it.

        So why bring it up AGAIN? Seems GM would want to avoid “Volt fires” as a trending news topic, right? My advice to Opel and everyone else would have been, essentially, to STFU and let the news cycle pass until you have a real solution for the fire problem. Instead, people associated with GM continue to shoot the company in the foot, by once again reminding everyone that a problem does exist with those “highly charged batteries.” They’re making this worse than it should be.

        I find it funny, personally, but the sheer lack of logic on GM’s part boggles the mind.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @alluster: Chrysler has been bailed out TWICE. If GM goes bankrupt again, the gov’t will bail them out again, due to precedent.

        If that happens, i’m moving to the Czech Republic.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Did GM bring it up again? I don’t think so. I think AN went and talked to someone who said the same thing GM said 11 days ago, and AN is reporting it as new. Should GM not talk to AN when they ask questions about this stuff? It isn’t like GM sent out a press release on this. That is the point you are missing. GM didn’t bring this back up.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Good PR for sure staying in the news. Would you looks at the front of the Eurro version? I’d take the non-Prius looking one please.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I for one would love to own a Volt, and plan to within the next few years.”

    A big +1 to that after driving one for 2 days! I suspect most of the potential buyers are still the “early adopters” and smart enough to differentiate a real problem from media sensationalism.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Media sensationalism aside, people considering a Volt are not casual customers; they are students of it. They will be aware of this issue, and will be doing their own investigations.

      People tend to distinguish between potentially human-caused problems (such as Toyota’s UA), and those not human-caused (fires). Most of us feel like we have some control over our vehicles, so hearing about UA makes us wonder why the drivers can’t just hit the brakes or whatever. Spontaneous combustion is clearly out of our control, and it’s the sort of thing to scare off all but True Believers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        people considering a Volt are not casual customers; they are students of it. They will be aware of this issue, and will be doing their own investigations.

        Early adopters tend to be fairly tolerant of high prices and are fairly open to taking chances. That’s what makes them early adopters.

        Most late adopters (and I generally am one myself) can’t understand this, as late adopters prioritize predictable outcomes and reasonable prices. But early adopters are different — they want things that are new and different, even if getting into them requires paying a price premium or if there is a greater risk that they will break.

        This Volt fire happened to ONE car. Most early adopters won’t be overly concerned if they feel that the problem has been addressed or wasn’t that important to begin with. Even late adopters might tolerate it; it’s not as if a 747 crash deters all of us from flying.

        This issue with the Volt battery isn’t that important, in the scheme of things. Even if there is a defect, it is highly likely the sort of defect that can be easily remedied. The one incident is being grossly overhyped here and those who are overhyping it would be whining about GM, regardless. The noisemakers comprise a small percentage of the population and aren’t nearly as important as they think that they are.

        However, GM’s primary challenge is that Toyota completely dominates this space. GM can try to claim that the Volt is radically different from a Prius, but it really isn’t and most consumers won’t believe that it is.

        Toyota has gained first-mover advantage. If there is any company that is poised to take hybrids mainstream, it is them. Not even Honda, as a much beloved Japanese brand in the US, can outshine Toyota in the hybrid market. I suspect that GM is going to have to settle for the scraps; they’re already too far behind to ever win this race.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I simply can’t believe how badly Honda has stumbled in this segment. Even Ford has a better track record in this segment with the hybrid versions of the Escape, Fusion and MKZ.

  • avatar
    jhott997

    Has anybody ever considered another, more sinister, explanation?
    GM is using this as an excuse to slow down production of the Volt. It is well known inside GM that $10,000+ is “lost” on each Volt that rolls off the assembly line.
    This past spring Ackerson demanded that $10,000 of “cost” be removed from the Volt.
    Inside GM they are increasingly asking questions about the business case and volume assumptions of the Volt. Volume assumptions were dramatically increased in early 2010 in order to make a “better” business case for the Volt.
    There is a second generation “Volt-tec” system being developed but this system doesn’t come anywhere close to the cost requirements. The whole exercise is being rethought…

    So you make fewer, save cash, but you can’t just stop production as that is bad propaganda, so you generate some excuse to slow down production. When, if, production can start up to meet demand you are great and wonderful because you have “solved the battery problem and made it even safer”.
    You don’t think they discuss this kind of stuff inside GM? Think twice…….

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Glad to see all the usual suspects are here.

    What is the story here? That GM will not deliver cars until they have documented or implemented (I’m assuming) different handling procedures for Europe vs. the US?

    Taken at face value, A123 Systems clarification is just that. It’s not obviously well known who the suppliers are for these different programs.

    It seems to me all the players involved are being transparent, at least as much as we can determine.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Spontaneous combustion is clearly out of our control, and it’s the sort of thing to scare off all but True Believers.”

    Seriously, you’d categorize this as spontaneous combustion? Were talking about a wreck so serious that in most cases it would total the vehicle. Either way it’s going on a flatbed somewhere, your not driving it home. And the chance that it might start on fire would be well after you were removed from the vehicle, most likely by emergency personnel. I guess I just don’t follow your line of thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      In the fog of this media frenzy, sometimes the facts will be blurred.

      We know that the fire occurred some time after the wreck, but the car was just sitting there (“spontaneous”). The fact that the battery’s coolant system was compromised is the alleged cause, conveniently determined the day before Congressional hearings began.

      But is it worth explaining to people that they’ll have time to escape before it bursts into flames – really? It’s a distinction without a difference.

      BTW – I’ve owned 3 Pinto/Bobcats without incident, but they were cheap and used. I don’t know if I’d buy a new premium car with rumors of fire surrounding it.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Don’t be misled by the long time period that it took the batteries in the tests to ignite. The batteries are perfectly capable of igniting immediately in a severe collision. No guarantee it’s going to wait until the car is on the flat-bed. Fires from these batteries are not like the gentle little gasoline fires we all know and love – we’re talking about oxy-acetylene like temps. Read the documentation from the battery manufacturers if you need more info.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        This is quite true, but the safety packaging is key. Any car with lithium ion batteries could have a terrible fire issue if the batteries are compromised.

        Lithium ion batteries should be protected like an aircraft’s ‘black box’, in my opinion.

        Lithium polymer batteries and nickel metal hydride batteries don’t have near the risks, but they also don’t have near the performance in cold, nor the energy density.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Isn’t this just confirming what we already knew? GM already said this 11 days ago.
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/gm-considers-volt-battery-redesign-halts-european-deliveries-will-miss-us-sales-goal/

  • avatar
    gdd9000

    Where there’s a spark, there is usually next smoke, then fire.

    Ok ok, stop laughing. I mean seriously, could these frickin’ GM folks be MORE incompetent? I would have much preferred the BK lounge and never having to see their P.O.S.’s on the road anymore by the time Im too old to drive. Instead I have to own a piece of this turd, then watch the next owners watch the stock wallow down toward the next bailout. We are banana.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “However, GM’s primary challenge is that Toyota completely dominates this space. GM can try to claim that the Volt is radically different from a Prius, but it really isn’t and most consumers won’t believe that it is.”

    Let’s see, the Prius uses an ICE engine with electric assist to move while the Volt uses electric motors with an ICE assist, but only after the battery has been depleted. The Plug in Prius goes goes 12 miles on battery power but can’t go faster than 50 MPH without using the ICE, ever. The Volt goes 40 miles on bettery power and will go a 100 MPH using its electric motors provided the batteries have adequate charge. Radical may not be the best word but I’d say it’s at least sunstantially different…LOL

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Let’s see, the Prius uses an ICE engine with electric assist to move while the Volt uses electric motors with an ICE assist, but only after the battery has been depleted.

      I realize that this seems like a really compelling difference to a few fanboys. But most of the market isn’t that concerned.

      The Prius is a safer choice. GM isn’t exactly known for being an engineering leader, and there aren’t enough GM fanboys who are actually in the market to buy a Volt that they are going to make any difference.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Pch101: GM isn’t exactly known for being an engineering leader, and there aren’t enough GM fanboys who are actually in the market to buy a Volt that they are going to make any difference.

        Actually, the corporation’s image is worse in this regard – it is known for releasing new technology and allowing customers to do the final testing, and then stonewalling when problems appear.

        For many of us, the problem with the Volt isn’t the “Government Motors” mantra or any negative associations carried with “green” vehicles. It’s that GM does not have a good track record with new technology, and we have no desire to serve as the final testers of the product. I’d feel more confident if the Volt had been developed by Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        it is known for releasing new technology and allowing customers to do the final testing, and then stonewalling when problems appear.

        I can think of plenty of examples of bad GM products. But I can’t recall too many examples of bad GM products that were well ahead of the curve.

        Sales numbers suggest that the early adopters already bought a Prius years ago. There will soon be a commercially produced plug-in Prius to satisfy those who want something extra, and the real diehards have already spent years experimenting with plug in Priuses on their own.

        GM is too late. The Volt plug-in isn’t unique enough to take that credibility away from Toyota. A few GM fanboys on the internet who talk up its alleged uniqueness while bitching about Toyota aren’t going to change that.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Nobody cares about the technical operating differences.

      Consumers might care about these things, though:
      a. The Volt requires two fuels to operate at its peak.
      b. The Volt isn’t as clean as a Prius.
      c. The Volt isn’t as cheap to operate as a Prius when driven like a regular car.
      d. The Volt costs a lot more than a Prius.
      e. The Volt seats 4; the Prius seats 5.
      f. The Prius has never been dogged by ‘fire’ stories.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Why do you say the Volt isn’t as clean or the Prius and that it isn’t as cheap to operate as the Prius? I believe those are opinions and depend upon driving style. For most people’s driving style, the Volt would be cleaner and cheaper to operate than a Prius.

    • 0 avatar

      Both the Prius and the Volt involve an ICE, one or more electric motors, and a planetary gearset. How they are engaged and disengaged is different. However, for the purposes of this discussion, the Volt’s fire safety the primary difference is that the Volt uses Lithium Ion batteries and the regular Prius uses Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, which don’t have the same fire hazard as currently formulated Li-Ion cells.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    I don’t know why people get all excited about a few flaws in the Volt. It’s close enough for government work, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “I realize that this seems like a really compelling difference to a few fanboys. But most of the market isn’t that concerned.”

    Well that’s your opinion. Personally I think your way off track. But let’s stop right here because trust me I don’t have anywhere near the “free time” you do nor the desire to go back and forth with you over the net.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Well that’s your opinion.

      If it was just my opinion, then I would expect to see some sales and some buzz. So far, I don’t see much of either.

      If you have some evidence that the Volt is poised for sales greatness, then provide it. Simply squawking about how unique that it supposedly is, while griping about the evil Toyota, just doesn’t cut it. If whining about Toyota was such a great business strategy, then GM wouldn’t have had to have filed bankruptcy in the first place.


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