A few days ago, I wrote about GM’s decision to no longer make Spark EV battery packs. This means that nobody can replace a busted pack, and that people still under factory warranty would get a buyout offer instead of having their car fixed up and running again. But now GM is telling us that it does intend to keep making packs for the vehicle and has intended to all along. However, given the fairly solid information both myself and Zack Hurst at EV Resource dug up, I’m feeling like GM is gaslighting us.
Some Quick Background
After the death of the GM EV1, the company didn’t sell any EVs for years. Eventually, it sold the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid. When Tesla decided to keep project WhiteStar all EV instead of going plug-in hybrid like the Volt, and Nissan had moderate (for the time) success with the LEAF, California demanded at least a few full EVs get sold again if manufacturers wanted to keep selling SUVs and pickup trucks in the state, so everyone rushed back into building EVs.
Most electric cars from mainstream manufacturers rushed to market around this time kind of sucked. The Ford Focus EV put batteries in the trunk, which messed up both cargo space and handling. Plus, there was only around 80 miles of range and no fast charging. FCA (now Stellantis) made an electric Fiat 500, but then told customers that they hoped people wouldn’t buy them. Toyota outsourced most of the work for the second generation of electric Rav4 EVs to Tesla, which was a big help to the company in those days.
But GM put a little more work in when it made the Spark EV. Unlike the other compliance cars, it didn’t just slap batteries in a gas car or have someone else do it. GM redesigned the back of the Spark, made room for batteries under the seats and floorboard (keeping it low while still sharing the Spark’s platform), and revised the rear suspension. The result was a car with limited range, but one with fewer compromises and available DC fast charging. Plus, the first year of Spark EV had 400 lb-ft of torque, which made it a lot of fun.
The car eventually gained a loyal following, with several Facebook groups dedicated to it. After attaining cult classic status, GM took the same basic design, improved and enlarged it, and ended up with the Bolt EV, which is also a fairly solid vehicle (aside from the janky fire-prone LG Chem batteries that GM had to replace at considerable expense).
As I pointed out in the first article, GM told a number of customers that it wasn’t making packs. This meant that once the battery pack failed, you couldn’t really repair a Spark EV and keep it on the road. The few people with a remaining factory warranty could get a buyout, but everyone else was basically out of luck. Aftermarket and independent repair companies have also not expressed any interest, too few were made to justify the expense of designing a replacement, and the market value of a used Spark EV is too low to justify spending much money on repairs.
GM Says This Wasn’t True Now
After a number of outlets reported about the demise of the Spark EV, GM started contacting media outlets to tell us that we were wrong:
“Recent reports speculating that GM will no longer provide battery pack replacements for the Spark EV are incorrect. While we are currently experiencing a temporary disruption in the supply of new Spark EV packs, GM remains committed to providing replacement packs to Spark EV owners who need them in the future and will work with owners until we get the supply issues resolved.”
We’re not in the business of spreading fake news, so of course we put this statement in the original story to inform readers of what GM said here.
But, before throwing Zack Hurst and EV Resource under the bus and taking GM’s statement at face value, I think readers deserve to know why so many writers came to this conclusion. We didn’t blindly accept everything Zack said. I personally checked into what people on the Spark EV owners groups on Facebook were saying, and several other people said exactly what he said. Chevrolet dealers said no packs were available for repairs, and that none would be made in the future. Those with a car still under an 8-year 100,000-mile battery warranty were told that they could get a buyout.
More importantly, Hurst did reach out to GM corporate and he was told that this was the case in no uncertain terms. So, yes, GM really did say there would be no more batteries for the Spark EV. I’ve known Hurst for years and have worked with him on some EV education and outreach projects, and have found him to be a trustworthy source of information.
When GM calls our work “recent posts speculating” after a number of different people were told that GM wasn’t making batteries anymore, that’s not really a truthful statement. People were told both by dealers and by GM itself that replacement batteries were out of production, and these real statements were reported.
That’s not speculation or the spreading of anti-GM FUD. It’s reporting of available facts that were checked and double-checked.
I understand that there are other possibilities here. Someone at GM may have had bad information (this appears to be the case). Dealers may have been getting information from a computer system that was giving them bad information when it came to availability, and then passed that bad information along to customers. GM is a big organization, and honest mistakes do happen, so we shouldn’t drag the company over it.
What’s not OK is to basically gaslight writers and their readers after an honest mistake of some kind was made at GM or between GM and its dealers. Saying that the information owners, dealers, and a GM executive had was mistaken would have been the way to go here. Instead, GM corporate decided to throw us all under the bus and cry “Fake news!” like Donald Trump to make itself look better, when simply admitting that a mistake of some kind was made wouldn’t have made it look bad at all.
Featured image by GM.
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