GM’s Chevrolet Bolt Nightmare

The Chevrolet Bolt was supposed to underscore GM’s electric vehicle prowess. Following on the heels of the plug-in electric hybrid Chevrolet Volt, the new model offered GM a strong 1-2 punch in the electric sphere.

That was 2017 and since then, GM discontinued the Chevy Volt. Presently, the company is pouring its resources into the Bolt and developing new models based on its upcoming Ultium EV architecture. The new tech is a clear departure from what underpins the Bolt, which utilizes LG. GM is so bullish on its own tech that Honda will also benefit from a pair of models.


2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is refreshed for 2022. Photo GM Corp.

A Series of Bolt Recalls

But much has changed over the past four years and little for the good. The Bolt gained a second body style and an updated design for 2022. But it has also caused GM a considerable headache and financial challenges. Indeed, a series of recalls beginning in late 2020 underscore how dreadful the problem is.

To begin, GM identified nearly 51,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs built for the 2017 to 2019 model years and recalled most in November 2020. Not much later, GM upped the ante to include approximately 18,000 more models for the same model years. At issue with the initial recall is that GM stated the vehicles might have defective cells. In June 2021, GM issued a recall covering the initial batch of vehicles after its engineers identified a pair of possible defects that might be found in the same cell.

The Bolt problem escalated in August when GM recalled every Bolt produced since its release. Covering more than 142,000 units and six model years, the automaker now promises to replace the battery cells in every model. The company cites about twelve reported fires to date. No injuries or deaths have been reported, but the automaker is facing a public relations, logistics, and financial nightmare that won’t easily be resolved.

Recall Instructions and LG Assistance

The instructions GM has given owners included receiving software updates to limit charges to 90 percent of capacity. Further, owners were instructed to operate their vehicles in Hill Top Reserve. Later, GM told owners not to park their vehicles in their garages. GM followed up by directing owners to park their cars at least 50 feet away from other cars.

GM is blaming LG for the problem and is seeking assistance from its battery supplier to reimburse it for the defective cells. This year, GM took an $800 million charge off for the batteries and is seeking $1 billion from LG. At the same time, the automaker has directed its supplier to increase production, but it still needs to ensure the problem has been identified and fixed. Meanwhile, GM stopped Bolt production and ended sales, at least until the problem is rectified.

Customers, of course, are rightly concerned about their vehicles with some wondering if a fire is imminent. Even with following GM’s recall instructions to a “T,” no one knows with any certainty when their vehicles will be fixed. Moreover, the parking instructions are concerning for anyone living in an urban environment as it is nearly impossible to part a Bolt more than a few feet away from a building or other vehicles.

New Electric Vehicles

The Bolt nightmare is casting a shadow over other planned GM electric vehicles, including the soon-to-be-released GMC Hummer EV. The Cadillac Lyriq follows next year with many more models slated in subsequent years. Further, Acura and Honda models are planned as GM and Honda move forward in their business relationship. The two companies are not merging, but they are actively collaborating on joint projects.

Certainly, GM has its work cut out to fix the problem before it shifts to electric vehicles. This also means ensuring that its in-house Ultium line is up to the task. Or, the company risks losing business as doubtful customers stay away.


See Also7 Facts About the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt

Nightmare photograph courtesy of Magwood Photography.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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