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Why Early Adopters Won’t Bolt Volt

The safety concerns surrounding the Chevy Volt may fuel that old superstition of many car enthusiasts, say experts: Don’t buy the first year of new car.

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Early adopters of new technologies always run the risk there will be bugs in the design, but those fears tend to run higher when it comes to cars, because of the heftier price tag and the number of fast-moving parts, analysts say. “It’s a time-honored caveat in the car business, but as we’ve seen with other gadgets, you sort of run this risk whenever you are the first one in one some new kind of high-tech device,” says Bill Visnic, a senior analysts with Edmunds.com.

As for the Volt, sales of the hybrid electric car were lackluster even before a federal investigation began early this year into the why the car’s lithium-ion battery caught fire during crash tests, the Wall Street Journal reported today. But it’s the nature of early adopters to overlook the bugs, Visnic says. In fact, the Volt was rated number one in a Consumer Reports survey of customer satisfaction released last week, with 93% of owners insisting they were thrilled with the car.

To be fair, design issues are hardly limited to new models, says Lincoln Merrihew, managing director of Compete.com. “Recalls are not unique to new products. Honda had one recently with airbags which are a decades’ old technology,” he says. “Yes, new cars often have problems, but so do the older models.”

And In this case, the early adopters are right not to be easily put off, Visnic says. “The fear of the first year’s model goes back to a time when manufacturing was not as good. Today, the bugs are more likely to be computer related – annoying, perhaps, but not something that will strand you on the side of the road.”

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    • I’ve had my Volt for a year now, and it’s great. The article misses the real point: the reason us “early adopters” won’t “bolt the Volt” is because the car is simply superior, and has offered the great majority of us a fantastic ownership experience. We also realize that the hype about the one legitimate battery fire 3 weeks after crash testing by NHTSA (who should have discharged the battery after the test and none of this would have happened) is utterly overblown and sensationalized by the media, particularly the right-leaning media.

      After that first 3-weeks-post-crash fire, NHTSA failed to recreate it by crashing whole cars. So they went on to purposely damage fully charged, NAKED Volt batteries and their cooling systems and turn them upside down. Results: one battery did nothing, one produced sparks, one caught fire a week later. This should worry a Volt owner why exactly?

      There have been ZERO consumer Volt battery fires, a fact most of the press conveniently ignores or buries deep down the bottom of their articles. So in general, Volt owners are an intelligent bunch, certainly smart enough to know when a story is being created out of virtually nothing, and knowing meanwhile there are over a couple hundred thousand gasoline car fires every year that don’t even rate the slightest investigation or press coverage!

    • Lou – I drive in the Northeast. Volt gives you three options for AC/heat – 1) fan only, 2) economy, or 3) full power. AC on full power works better than my gas SUV. Most of the time though, I’m driving in fan only or economy to save battery – and the cabin is comfortable.

      Battery life is reduced with the colder weather – but the how long the charge last really depends on how you drive. The Volt RECHARGES when you coast or break. I’ve had 30F days where the full charge batter registers 33 miles. I was able to achieve 43 actual miles before gas engine kicked in.

      Never a problem on long trips – the gas engine kicks in after the battery charge is used. Also, when you coast or break while using the gas engine, the battery recharges! Can get up to 400 miles on full charge and full tank of gas – much further than my SUV.

      I know a lot of people are bashing the Volt but my family and I are true believers in this new technology. We don’t see ourselves every going back to the traditional gas vehicle…

    • Peter-would you share with us WHERE you drive? East coast, west coast, south, north, mid-west?

      How does your Volt perform when you need AC, or heat? For that matter, how does the AC and or heater work? Are there hills or mountains where you drive? If it gets cold where you drive–say, below freezing–how long a battery charge do you get? Do you ever find it difficult to take longer trips, knowing that you may not always be able to re-charge?

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