We have asked General Motors more than once which is the manufacturing defect in its LGES battery packs that is causing the Chevy Bolt EV to catch fire. The company answered something else entirely every single time it cared to answer. Yet, there is news that GM is buying back affected vehicles, and GM confirmed that – even if it also said it handles them on an individual basis.
According to the reader who warned us about this, the criteria for saying yes or no would be the lemon laws in each state. If they were tough, GM would repurchase the cars. In states where they were weak or not properly enforced, the company would deny the buyback requests.
He was one of the lucky ones to have his request granted.
“I initiated my buyback request in March and it took 67 days to complete the process. It entailed turning the car into a local dealer and receiving a check from GM.”
Our anonymous reader confirmed that GM is buying back the vehicles involved in the recall, which comprises 50,932 Bolt EVs made from July 26, 2016, up to September 10, 2019. We also found evidence elsewhere that the buyback is one of the remedies Bolt EV owners may try instead of the solutions GM proposed.
They consist of taking affected Bolt EV units to dealers to submit them to diagnostic tools. They would be able to detect anomalies, in which case the “battery module assemblies” would be replaced. GM will also install an “advanced onboard diagnostic software” that could see changes in “battery module performance” that could indicate a fire risk.
A temporary software solution GM proposed limited charging capacity to 90 percent, but it did not work. A Chevy Bolt EV burned to the ground in Ashburn after going through the procedure. On top of that, Hyundai had a similar issue with the Kona Electric caused by folded anode tabs in cells produced by LGES. The remedy was to replace the entire battery pack.
Discovering the real cause for the Bolt EV fires would help customers compare the solutions proposed by each company. If the electric Chevrolet also burns due to a folded anode tab, GM should probably adopt the battery pack replacement as Hyundai did. We asked NHTSA about the issue, and it said it does not comment on ongoing investigations. That means the agency may eventually tell us what the “manufacturing defect” GM does not disclose was.
With reasonable doubts around the repairs proposed by GM, it is natural that owners prefer the buyback. We found them at the ChevyBolt.org forum, for example. At the InsideEVs Forum, the user Claire Green warns that this is a voluntary program created by GM and that the company could cut it whenever it wants, perhaps even when the final solution was announced. So far, it seems to continue.
Green also said that she didn’t “feel confident that a programming update” would fix “a physical problem with the batteries.” That is why she swapped her 2017 vehicle for a 2022 Bolt EV “for no money out of pocket.” She felt GM did the right thing due to the “horrible trade-in value caused by the recall.”
There are also Reddit threads about the buyback process. In one of them, there’s a survey with the people that asked for it. The spreadsheet there currently contains 369 respondents, of which 233 contacted GM for the buyback. Among these 233 customers, 76 had their requests accepted, 130 are waiting for a reply, 19 got a "no" and a loaner offer, and 8 did not get even a loaner.
Most of the people who had their buyback requests accepted are from California (23) and Massachusetts (7). The highest number of customers that had their requests denied are from Illinois (5). People familiar with lemon laws in each state may tell us if the hypothesis of strong or weak laws really stands.
As Claire Green recommends, the owners willing for the buyback have to be “patient but persistent.” With a bottleneck on the repurchase department, the cases would be taking almost two months to be solved.
Green also stressed that affected owners should not sell their cars for cheap instead of pursuing the buyback process because the people buying them would probably seek the buyback.
If you are among the people willing to get rid of your affected Chevy Bolt EV, take part in the Reddit survey and help others with your experience in the process at the InsideEVs forum. There are 50,932 of you out there.