Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM Scrambles to Ease Volt Concerns

In this handout image provided by General Motors, The first pre-production Chevrolet Volt is on the assembly line at the Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing plant in Detroit, Michigan.
John F. Martin, General Motors

At General Motors headquarters in Detroit, the leadership is facing a crisis.

The Chevy Volt, the halo car that is supposed to paint GM in a better light and convince America GM has changed, is the subject of a federal investigation into whether it is safe or not.

For GM executives, the implications of the investigation go well beyond whether or not it will hurt, or potentially devastate, sales of Chevy Volt.

No, the bigger issue is whether the vehicle, literally and figuratively, that GM has staked its reputation on, is going to become an embarrassing punch line for corporate failure?

This is why the head of GM North America, Mark Reuss, and the head of GM Global Product Development, Mary Barra, are holding a conference call to answer questions about the Chevy Volt.

It would be quaint to think GM is getting out in front of this story. The fact is, once the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially launched a defect investigation, GM found itself playing catch up.

Chevy Volt Fire Investigation

So what will GM do to win over, or at least, lessen the damage this investigation will have in the court of public opinion?

For starters, I expect GM to release video it has of crash tests involving the Volt. The federal government won't release its crash test video or images anytime soon, but GM could, and likely will, share its video to ease concerns about the Volt.

I also suspect, GM will start pushing testimonials from independent third party analysts.

Beyond that, there's the question of whether GM scales back Volt advertising. Granted, this NHTSA investigation is not as big nor as damaging as what Toyota went through with sudden acceleration, but it has the potential to mushroom into something much larger and drag on for months. So every time Volt ads run, there's the potential it will remind the public of questions over Volt's safety.

GM and NHTSA have both said the Volt is safe.

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