I was making morning rounds of my usual internet haunts and I saw a short post by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit asking, “Is the Chevy Volt headed for a recall?”. Now I have a great deal of respect for the “blogfather”, as Prof. Reynolds is known, and when Instapundit links to my posts, traffic (and ad revenue) spike, so I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds, but there has been a lot of misinformation spread around about the Volt’s fire safety and this Instapundit post is a good example of how that particular kind of sausage gets made.
At first glace, since Glenn’s link about the Volt went to Autoblog’s Autoblog Green site, I thought it might be credible. Autoblog is a fine source for straight news. They may not ruffle as many feathers as The Truth About Cars does, but they do a good job reporting the news and rewriting press releases. Following the link to Autoblog Green, we find a post headlined Is the Chevy Volt headed for a recall? Instapundit was simply quoting Autoblog Green.
That post at AB-G, though, is not so much a news story as it’s a poll of Autoblog readers asking them if they think the Volt will be recalled. Writers and publishers are always looking for an angle or a hook on which to base an article, particularly when the article is speculative. In this case, Sebastian Blanco, the Autoblog writer, hung the poll question on the fact that in an article on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into the one crash-tested Volt that caught fire, the Reuters news agency mentioned the word “recall”, a word hitherto not heard in connection with the Chevy Volt.
From Autoblog Green:
The latest article we’ve found about the Chevrolet Volt/NHTSA crash test fire incident mentions a word we’ve not heard uttered before: recall.
The thing is, the Reuters article does exactly that, but only that. It does mention the word recall, but it does so only in a context that makes it clear that right now there is no recall anticipated or planned at this time by either NHTSA or GM. The Reuters story is based on an investigative memo released by NHTSA saying that the agency is looking into the integrity of body welds in the case of serious collisions.
From Reuters (emphasis added):
U.S. auto safety regulators are examining welding as part of their investigation into battery fires in Chevy Volts that could lead to a recall for the plug-in car.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know whether there are any visible weld changes at key points on the underside of the vehicle made by General Motors near the battery pack, according to an investigative memo that was publicly disclosed.
The memo gave no indication of whether the agency would push for a recall.
In other words, no, the Chevy Volt is not currently headed for a recall. As I said, I don’t think this is necessarily Instapundit’s fault. A lot of what you’ve read about the Volt fire issue has been inaccurate. The other day, the Associated Press badly mangled the story when it said three crash tested Volts have burned, when in fact only one Volt has burned. The other two fires were when battery packs alone were tested and damaged to replicate the conditions following the actual crash test. If a well established news agency with editors and fact checkers like AP can’t be bothered to read the actual source material before running a story, I can’t really criticize Prof. Reynolds for not going three links deep to tack down the facts. If there’s anyone to criticize, it’s Autoblog and Blanco for running a poll question that was ultimately based on a negative answer to that exact question.