October 17, 2021

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Bolt owners frustrated, wanting fix after fires prompt GM recall

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — General Motors recently announced a big recall for its electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt.

The problem is the car’s battery can suddenly catch on fire. While GM now says it’s found a fix, it will likely take months to fix all of the cars. Which is just adding to Bolt owners’ frustration.

“So when we got it, it was a perfect his and hers,” Joshua Starnes said standing in front of two 2021 Chevy Bolts.

Last March, Starnes bought his wife an Oasis blue Chevy Bolt.

Then, he explained, “after I drove the car, I was like, ‘I’ve got to have one now.’ So we ended up leaving the dealership with two.”

Starnes said he knew General Motors had recalled earlier models of the Bolt late last year after several spontaneously caught on fire. But GM said they’d fixed the problem with the car’s battery. The dealer also assured Starnes he had nothing to worry about. But then late last month, after more cars caught on fire, GM expanded the recall to cover every Bolt ever made. In all, that’s more than 140,000 vehicles, including the two that Starnes and his wife now own.

Starnes remembers hearing the news.

“Gosh, I was livid,” he recalled.

To reduce the risk of fire, GM urged Bolt owners to drive their cars less and take shorter trips so they wouldn’t drain the battery.

There were also parking recommendations.

“They told us it is best to park 50 feet away from any structures, not to park inside of any garage and don’t park beside any other cars,” Starnes explained.

Starnes now parks the cars on the far end of his driveway, but he had to spend $800 for a longer charging cord that would reach.

But he’s had parking lots and businesses refuse to let him park on their property because of the potential for fires.

He also now must carefully monitor his cars’ batteries. GM tells Bolt owners not to let the battery get below a certain level and, that they should not charge it to more than 90%. So, Starns can no longer just plug his cars in at night to recharge them.

“It’s fortunate there have not been more incidents. It’s fortunate that we haven’t seen deaths and serious injuries,” Jason Levine told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Levine heads up the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group that has been keeping a close eye on the Bolt fires and recalls.

Levine said any time cars spontaneously catch on fire, it should be taken seriously, and the thing for Bolt owners to do is follow the automaker’s recommendations.

“If they’re telling you to park it outside of your house, if they’re telling you only charge it up to a certain level, and don’t let it get it below a certain level, it is frustrating, it is aggravating, but it is important to do that to hopefully keep you and your family and your neighbors safe,” Levine urged.

GM did just announce a new plan to replace the battery in every Bolt, and Levine encouraged Bolt owners to be proactive.

“As soon as you start hearing that the repairs, the new batteries are coming out, check with your dealer. Check with any authorized Chevy dealer. It doesn’t just have to be where you bought it. Any authorized Chevy dealer is required by law to help you with your vehicle,” Levine said

Starnes, meanwhile, worries now about his cars catching on fire and he does not have a lot of confidence in GM right now or its electric cars.

While the automaker has bought back some customers’ Bolts, Starnes has not had any luck yet getting a buy back himself.

“So how frustrating is this [whole situation]?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked him.

“Frustrating enough that I am willing to go on record with it,” he replied, adding, “They are beautiful cars but I really really want them to be someone else’s beautiful cars.”

Bolt owners will need to keep their cars out of the garage for at least another couple of months. GM said it will start replacing the batteries in all Bolts next month and later in the year, the company will roll out new software designed to detect and alert owners about any battery abnormalities. The automaker said, after that, owners should then be able to park their cars anywhere, but “out of an abundance of caution” the company encouraged drivers to “still leave ample space around their vehicle wherever they choose to park.”

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