With NHTSA opening a formal defect investigation into the Chevy Volt, GM is moving to defend its rolling lightning rod (no pun intended) and allay consumer fears about its safety. Yesterday I briefly appeared on Fox Business’s Your World With Neil Cavuto show to talk about what the intro to my segment referred to as “the hybrid from hell” and the “killer in your garage.” I tried to explain that the danger to consumers was basically nil, and that the real concern is for rescue, towing and salvage workers. And I would have explained why NHTSA’s tests still leave some serious questions open, but my “fair and balanced” approach meant that my segment ended up being extremely short. So let’s take the opportunity now to look past the hysteria and pinpoint the real issues with NHTSA’s investigation into the Volt.
NHTSA has has opened a formal defect investigation into the Chevrolet Volt, on the grounds that
Intrusion in a crash may damage the battery, which may result in a substantial thermal reaction and fire
We knew that NHTSA was already looking in to this type of defect after an earlier test incident, but the official investigation resume [PDF] lists three separate thermal events that have occurred as a result of NHTSA tests. Hit the jump for the official explanation of this sequence of events.
When former auto task force boss Steve Rattner’s former firm Quadrangle recently settled a “pay-to-play” corruption investigation, it threw Rattner under the bus, saying:
We wholly disavow the conduct engaged in by Steve Rattner, who hired the New York State Comptroller’s political consultant, Hank Morris, to arrange an investment from the New York State Common Retirement Fund. It is our understanding that Mr. Rattner also arranged a DVD distribution deal for a movie produced by the Chief Investment Officer’s brother in the middle of the investment decision-making process. That conduct was inappropriate, wrong, and unethical. Mr. Rattner is no longer with the firm and is not a part of today’s settlement. Quadrangle will fully cooperate in the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation of Mr. Rattner and others.
According to the DetN, that stinging indictment by Rattner’s former firm has inspired House Republicans to call for an investigation into whether Rattner was behind a deal in which some Delphi retirees lost their pensions while others didn’t.
Cash for Clunkers was set up very quickly, and there hasn’t been an accounting of the administrative costs of the program. There also hasn’t been publicly available information about how contractors were picked to process the thousands of transactions that the program generated… My concern is the waste, fraud and abuse that may have resulted from the vulnerabilities that can come with such a quick start.
Senator Chuck Grassley sticks it to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a letter requesting a full accounting of the cash for clunker program. The DOT was all over fraudulent commercial practices during C4C, but this is the first investigation into possible fraud or overruns on the administration side. Why Grassley waited until now to look into this doesn’t exactly compute, but it will still be interesting to see the results of the audit. After all, could it even be possible that the government spent $3b in a matter of weeks on a consumer incentive without fraud of some kind taking place?