By on June 2, 2008

x07stau039rf9.jpgGM's plans to sell 27k light hybrid vehicles this year have hit a snag. They've had to use one third of the battery packs earmarked for new car production to replace leaking battery packs in their 2007 model year mild hybrids. Automotive News [sub] reports the leaking nickel-metal hydride batteries, made by Cobasys, caused the hybrid system to shut down; the vehicles still ran in gas-only mode. A123-Cobasys is one of the companies developing the lithium-ion batteries for the Volt and plug-in hybrid Vue. If they can't build NiMH batteries that work, the more complex LiIon batteries could be something of a… challenge.

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24 Comments on “GM Recalls Hybrids Because of Leaking Batteries...”


  • avatar
    KixStart

    Here’s an interesting, related story:

    Resource Investor

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    One one hand at least they are recalling them, on the other hand this is the kind of problem (quality) that worries me about buying a domestic.

    On yet another hand my aging VW is aging very gracefully either. I blame alot of it’s ailments on the previous owner though…

    To be fair I drove a Pontiac G6 coupe and a Saturn Outlook this weekend that were A+. I still worry about what they will become at 150K miles though…

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Hey, I thought TTAC’s policy was “never to run ‘recall stories\'”?

    What gives?

  • avatar
    menno

    Katie, I’m guessing that the exception here is because it relates to GM’s capabilities (or lack thereof) when it comes to electric drive components and how this relates to the upcoming Volt. Also how it relates to what a lot of people already think (and vote with their pocketbooks) – that the Detroit 3 can’t build as good a car as Toyondissaru. (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru). So, why take a chance on a GM hybrid? Not many people are, by the look of their sales numbers.

  • avatar

    KatiePuckrick:

    Hey, I thought TTAC’s policy was “never to run ‘recall stories’”?

    What gives?

    I never said never. We only run ones with wider implications: lawsuits, product development, legislation, etc.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    KatiePuckrick, The article seems to me to be newsworthy beyond the recall info because it might help explain why it’s difficult to find certain GM hybrids in a showroom today; perhaps all the current battery production is earmarked for the recall.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Oh yea… that fills me with confidence about GM’s Volt.

    I have to ask, since I can’t read the article, did GM voluntarily recall all of cars they sold so far with the defective battery? Or was is business as usual? That is, they were forced to by laws. Being reactive instead is proactive.

    I ask because here, once again, is where GM can put its money where its mouth is. Or are they still just spilling out more PR BS.

  • avatar
    raast

    This is exactly what I expect from these guys and why the perception factor is so important if they expect to recover market share. I don’t know whether it’s nickel and diming, rush-to-market, bad quality control, bad design or a combination of that and more, but gee guys and girls, how about getting a first rate team together and doing it up right the first time?

  • avatar

    yankinwaoz I have to ask, since I can’t read the article, did GM voluntarily recall all of cars they sold so far with the defective battery? From the article: "GM initiated the recall in late December when it began receiving reports of battery failures."  

  • avatar
    KixStart

    yankinwaoz,

    It seems they’re failing very early in the warranty period.

    It seems to me that there’s really no point to stonewalling a problem that’s going to show up in a dealer service bay for a warranty-period fix.

    And, with the Volt on the horizon somewhere over the rainbow, low customer satisfaction with a GM “hybrid” would probably be unbelievably bad PR.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    so can we file this one under “perception gap?”

  • avatar
    jaje

    hehehe…nah – it was currency manipulation or the economic recession.

    I do not know the economics of why GM choose that supplier – but I’d bet price was the top factor.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If they can’t build NiMH batteries that work, the more complex LiIon batteries could be something of a… challenge.

    Well, yes and no. NiMH cells don’t leak unless:
    * They’re physically stressed (serious heat, pressure). Such a defect would be a GM mistake as they’re providing a poor environment.
    * They’re really defective. This is hard to believe, as NiMH cells are very basic and the techniques to prevent them leaking are well known. This would be Cobasys’ fault.

    A major missing item here is whether or not this was Cobasys’ or GM’s fault. LiIon cells are pretty different, and major risk there is poor charging management; something that shouldn’t really happen with NiMH cells.

  • avatar

    Trust GM to make an environmental car into a potential environmental disaster.

  • avatar
    gronald

    This makes me wonder about the safety of this new technology overall. The CUV hybrids (a la Saturn Vue) have that big-ol’ battery right behind the passengers, and it makes me particularly afraid to trust a new technology to GM. What about in a wreck?. That is a lot ofenergy packed into a small space, no?

    Is this too much worry?

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    Have both of the GM hybrid owners been notified?

  • avatar
    M1EK

    As with the crappy belt-assisted hybrid, GM seems determined to _prove_ their FUD about how bad hybrids are. Unfortunately, people can actually see the Prius.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That is a lot ofenergy packed into a small space, no?

    Is this too much worry?

    Gasoline is a bigger worry, by far. It’s more energy-dense and much more reactive. NiMH cells don’t do much when they leak, and what they leak isn’t terribly noxious. There’s electrical current, yes, but there’s usually a lot of countermeasures that result in said current being cut off from the rest of the vehicle. If you’re in a vehicle fire, or an accident severe enough to reach the batteries, you much, much bigger problems.

    LiIon cells worry me a little more because they’re more susceptible to quick ignition when shorted.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Skooter:

    I agree.

    Robert Farago:

    Any recall from any manufacturer could lead to wider implications.

    menno:

    Also how it relates to what a lot of people already think (and vote with their pocketbooks) – that the Detroit 3 can’t build as good a car as Toyondissaru.

    Apart from the Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Malibu, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, Ford Mondeo and Ford Focus Cabriolet.

    Incidentally, Toyota had to issue a recall for the Prius over a fault in its software which caused the car to stall mid-drive. Does this mean Toyota can’t build a hybrid….?

  • avatar

    KatiePuckrick:

    Any recall from any manufacturer could lead to wider implications.

    It’s a judgment call.

    Anyone who wishes to discuss this (off topic) line of questioning may do so via email: [email protected] Otherwise, please restrict your comments to the story itself.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Perhaps I didn’t word my question clearly. What I was trying to understand was the customer experience with the NEW GM.

    Was this handled in the old notorious GM way? That is, did they try everything they could to weasel out of it? They they try to sweep it under the rug until it became clear that they could do so no longer?

    Or where they “On it”? They they pounce on the problem as soon as possible, and do everything they could to help their customer out? Did they take away customers cars for days? Did the customers have to bring the car in again and again trying to fix the problem. What did it take before GM was forced to admit that they have to replace the batteries?

    Are they also being proactive and replacing batteries before they fail? Are they denying fixes to customers with high-mileage vehicles?

    I don’t expect a new car to be perfect. What make the difference is how the problems are handled. That is what I’m trying to judge. If GM wants people to have faith in their new tech, then they need to be proactive. They need to admit mistakes and correct them pronto. No BS. No of the old horrible dealer service experience.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Typical GM! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • avatar

    This is a very interesting article on Battery Packs, I suppose the old saying that “hurry makes waste” applies to GM in this case.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    # NICKNICK :

    so can we file this one under “perception gap?”

    # driving course :

    Trust GM to make an environmental car into a potential environmental disaster.

    # seoultrain :

    Have both of the GM hybrid owners been notified?

    You guys are brutal…….

    …….or not. LOL LOL

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