GM to Address Bolt Cars' Battery Defect Using Onstar System

By John D. Stoll Features Dow Jones Newswires

General Motors Co. is taking an unconventional approach to repairing battery failures in a portion of its new Chevrolet Bolt electric cars: It is using the Onstar telematics service to remotely identify the problem and notify only owners who are potentially affected.

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The Bolt is advertised as getting 238 miles of driving range on a single charge. In certain vehicles, the information system indicated far more juice remaining in the battery than it actually had, resulting in unexpected power loss.

Chris Bonelli, a General Motors spokesman, said most Chevy Bolt owners allow GM to perform remote diagnostic tests through the company's OnStar system, making it easier for the auto maker to locate and contact customers who have a defective vehicle and need a battery repair or replacement.

GM is banking on the $37,500 Bolt to help it catch up to Tesla Motors Inc. in the small but growing U.S. electric-vehicle market. Mr. Bonelli said more than 10,000 Bolts have been sold since the car went on sale in January. Less than 1% of buyers have experienced an unexpected loss of power while operating, he said.

At this early stage, any problems with the Bolt, even minor ones, could be seen as a setback because of both Tesla's sizable lead in sales of pure electric vehicles and wide skepticism about the range and costs associated with electric cars in general.

Repairs of manufacturing glitches typically are conducted via customer service notifications or full recalls, which can require extensive communication campaigns. Tesla has been credited with changing that model by using remote wireless updates to fix certain problems or perform upgrades remotely.

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GM has been using OnStar for decades as a subscription-based service for its owners and has added diagnostic tools to the program over the years. Bolt customers who opted out of the OnStar diagnostic service won't be notified of potential problems, the spokesman said. The affected Bolt vehicles were likely built early in the production-launch process.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 25, 2017 12:37 ET (16:37 GMT)