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October 24, 2012

Chevrolet Requests Owners to Bring Their Cars to Dealers for a Software Patch

By Tabitha Naylor, Contributing Writer

For a software upgrade from the 2013 model year, Chevrolet is asking owners of about 4,000 Volt plug-in hybrids, to bring their cars to dealers. In a telephone interview, a spokeswoman for General Motors (News - Alert), Michelle Malcho mentioned that when in motion, to ensure the Volt would avoid losing power, the upgrade was necessary. She added that the problem involved a delayed-charging function.

For example, a feature that allows owners to preselect a convenient time to charge the Volt’s batteries when electrical rates are low. However, when that option is selected, even when the vehicle is being driven, a software malfunction may cause the electric motor to shut off at a different time forcing the driver to seek a safe place to stop the vehicle. In this situation, the power steering and brakes still function.

Image via Shutterstock

Typically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires a recall for problems involving stalling or a sudden loss of power. Moreover, to address the problem, the agency is allowing G.M. to conduct a customer satisfaction campaign instead of a safety recall. A customer satisfaction campaign carries legal requirements for the automaker which includes the reporting of repair-completion rates and is less demanding than a recall.

Kevin Kelly, a spokesman for G.M. stated that by disabling the delayed-charging feature, owners could immediately prevent the problem and thus the automaker did not regard the Volt’s loss of power as a safety issue.

“It is a simple toggle-through on the charge mode setting that alleviates the issue. The vehicle can be restarted several minutes after the loss of power, “he added.

However, Clarence Ditlow, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, stated in an e-mail that the loss of power or stalling was clearly a safety issue since it could result in a crash and thus requires a recall.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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