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(Updates with LaHood comments starting in fourth paragraph.)
Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto-safety regulators are pleased with General Motors Co.’s plan to fix its Volt electric cars following fires in crash testing, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland said.
GM, based in Detroit, told owners last week to bring their Volts back to dealerships to have steel added to shield the cars’ lithium-ion batteries. Strickland’s agency opened an investigation into the Volt’s battery in November.
“They really did put customers first,” Strickland said yesterday in an interview at Cobo Hall in Detroit, where the North American International Auto Show started today. “This really is a safety issue.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, speaking with reporters today at the auto show, said GM “worked very cooperatively” with regulators. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure the Volt is safe to drive,” said LaHood, who praised the U.S. government’s $7,500 tax credit for buyers of the Volt and other electric vehicles.
NHTSA plans to conclude its investigation soon, Strickland said without further specifying.
The investigation has lowered demand for the car, according to Bandon, Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research Inc. U.S. dealers sold 7,671 Volts last year, missing GM’s 2011 target of 10,000.
GM plans to expand production of the Volt to 60,000 this year, with 45,000 of the cars earmarked for the U.S. Not including sales to corporate fleet customers, GM sold 992 Volts in December and ended the month with 4,200 in inventory.
The automaker said last week it would reinforce the structure on the sides of the car to spread energy away from the battery during a side-impact crash, the type of impact that preceded the fires in testing.
--With assistance from David Welch in Detroit. Editors: Bernard Kohn, Cecile Daurat
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