Holden Volt Electric Cars Australia Product Recall

It’s insanely ironic - and ironically insane - when a clean, green, ‘zero emission’ car just starts up on its own, and potentially gasses you to death

64,000 Holden (and Chevrolet) Volts are being recalled globally because they might just spontaneously pop a cap of carbon monoxide in yo’ grille. That’s bad. And it highlights an even bigger problem: There are tens of thousands of potentially killer cars out there on the roads - and their owners have no idea. We’ll get to that, and what you’ve got to do, to get your house in order.


The Holden (and Chevy) Cruze has a major problem. It’s been on sale for two-and-a-half years, and the geniuses at GM have only just figured out that, if you leave the ignition on - say, in the garage - it could drain the battery. And then, the petrol generator will start up, and carbon-monoxide will fart from its clean, green, zero-emission petrol generator, and that could kill you.

There are of course, warning chimes if you attempt to leave the Volt with the ignition on. You would have to fail to heed those. Motoring.com.au (a car manufacturer apologist website masquerading as actual news and journalism) recently described anyone who failed to heed those warning chimes as an idiot, and they also argued that, instead of being a real problem, it merely enhanced the process of Darwin’s natural selection.

Let’s ignore for a moment that human stupidity is sometimes a factor in tragedy. Let’s ignore the consequential requirement for inbuilt systematic protection in engineered systems - kind of essential to prevent life from playing out like Three Mile Island in 1979. Let’s ignore all that. Motoring.com.au needs to realise life doesn’t operate like an episode of Boston Legal. There are a dozen different ways you could be not an idiot and still leave the keys in the ignition. You might come home one day and find yourself immediately embroiled in an unfolding domestic crisis. You jump out of the car to help, and forget about the key. Or you might be … What’s that medical term? … you might be deaf.

Until that Motoring.com.au report, I had no idea deaf people were intrinsically stupid. I thought they were just ordinary people who couldn’t hear things like warning chimes. And it’s not like hearing loss affects that many people. It’s only one in 10 people globally who have some hearing impairment. Thank God it’s not a significant problem. I also had no idea Holden Volt accelerated natural selection by carbon monoxide poisoning was a desirable way of weeding out the deaf … but thanks for the sensitivity update, Motoring.com.au. Of course, all of that’s just comment and honest personal opinion. Apologist arseholes.

Holden Volt Electric Cars Australia Product Recall


Still, the delicious irony remains. GM’s marketers spent megabucks touting the Volt as an advanced ‘zero emissions’ vehicle when in reality the Volt might lie, passively, in wait, ready to make its move, and then go 100 per cent Auschwiz on you - in your own garage - admittedly minus the Zyclon-B and the showers … but it’s pretty close, philosophically. All that's missing is the malice and the sheer scale of the problem.

Carbon monoxide is highly neurotoxic. It bonds with haemoglobin in your blood to produce what the propellerheads call carboxyhaemoglobin - to you and me, it just stops your blood from carrying oxygen. That’s bad. One per cent carbon monoxide mixed in air will cause convulsions, respiratory arrest and death in about 10 minutes. Bad luck if you’re asleep and the Holden Volt kicks over, maliciously, in the garage. Exhaust gas is typically 1 to 2 per cent carbon monoxide. Nice design flaw, GM.

Holden Volt Electric Cars Australia Product Recall


The real idiots here, apart from the deaf-insulting Holden apologists at Motoring.com.au, are actually the Volt’s designers, and Holden Volt buyers themselves - of whom there have thankfully been only 240 in Australia since the vehicle went on sale in 2012. I mean, who doesn’t want a hastily re-styled plug-in Holden Cruze powered by a battery for zero emissions (but with an onboard petrol generator because otherwise they’d all be nothing more than roadside furniture after only a few kays).

Who doesn’t want a hi-tech“long-range electric vehicle [that] stands apart from hybrid and electric vehicles” … but which actually runs most of the time on electricity derived from burning petrol. And who doesn’t want a vehicle you could have bought for $60,000 in September 2012 and routinely trades in today - just two-and-a-half years later - for $25,000? Who doesn’t want all that?

Apparently, everyone. Statistically.

Holden Volt Electric Cars Australia Product Recall


If this were an isolated recall - tantamount to a grand alignment of the planets - sorry, we got that wrong - we could all write it off, and move on with our lives. But it’s not. Holden has issued 20 recalls in 16 months. Well done. On cars from four different countries: Australia, North America, South Korea and Thailand. This highlights GM’s ongoing, systematic separation from robust engineering. It’s a kind of engineering psychosis.

At least GM is an equal-opportunity producer of defects. They don’t discriminate. They’ll let everything go wrong. As you can see - doing really well at drive system malfunctions, about a B+ at occupant restraint defects, but they really need to start goofing off more on those steering, brake, fire risk and control system defects. Clearly not putting enough inattention into fundamental design there. They’re almost getting that right.

Full report: Holden Captiva 'crush risk' recall here >>

It's outrageous. Clutch pedals breaking off and transmissions falling out onto the road in Barina Spark. We’ve got seatbelts that don’t hold you in a crash, and LPG systems designed to ‘Roman candle’ in Commodore and Caprice. Plus sundry steering and driveline failures, and the ones you actually need a fully qualified exorcist for. It’s an engineering disgrace.

Check out the full Holden Health Check report here >>


And here’s the bigger problem: all those used cars out there on the road. Not just Holdens. The ones bought second-hand. The manufacturer has  absolutely no idea you own that car unless you tell them. If they issue a recall, they can’t contact you and fix some defective widget that might just kill you. Big problem. Swept under the rug. Too hard for the regulators. Too hard for the carmakers. Bad for you.

So, what do you do? You ring the carmaker and you tell them your VIN code - it’s on the rego papers. Seventeen digits. If a recall is issued in future, they’ll be able to contact you. They can also tell you if any past recalls are outstanding on your car. Or you can also drop into any dealer and get them to see if there are any active recalls or service campaigns on your car - and they’ll do all of that work for free, regardless of where you get the car serviced, and regardless of who you bought it from. Do it today - otherwise you could be driving a ticking time bomb.


People sometimes accuse me of having this anti-Holden agenda. That’s bullshit. It’s just the evidence. Buying a car is a big deal. It’s always a lot of money, and owning a lemon is a disaster. These official recalls are evidence of a bigger problem at Holden and GM - because under-done engineering knows no bounds, but recalls are limited only to safety issues. So there are more problems than just recalls going on at Holden. Going back to the dealer 20 times to get the car fixed - especially if they don’t or can’t fix it - is the exact opposite of why you buy a new car.

Avoiding Holden has become a risk-management issue.


Small Cars: Better alternatives to Holden Barina & Barina Spark

If you want a small car, why not buy (left to right, above) a Mazda2, a Hyundai i20 or a Kia Rio? They’re all better options than any diminutive Holden.

Alternatives to Holden Cruze

Instead of a Cruze you’d have to buy (left to right, above) a Mazda3, Hyundai i30 or Elantra, Kia Cerato, Toyota Corolla - they’re all better options.

Alternatives to Holden Commodore

Better family car? Left to right, above: Mazda6 every time. Maybe the works burger of Kia Optimas, or a Toyota Camry (if the loungeroom on wheels experience is your thing).

Alternatives to Captiva 5

All better five-seat SUVs. Left to right: Mazda CX-5 every time, or Hyundai Tucson (formerly ix35) or Kia Sportage, all exceptional vehicles, compared with a Captiva 5.

Alternatives to Captiva 7

Seven-seater SUV: It’s gotta be (left to right, above): a Hyundai Santa Fe, a Kia Sorento or a Toyota Kluger instead of a Captiva 7. Every time. With a bullet. Or else there’s too much risk you’ll live in automotive hell.


This is evidence-based, objective conclusion stuff, not some off-the-cuff opinion. It’s mainstream car-buying advice. And it’s not from some whack-job who doesn’t want to tell you the truth and get a car company offside because they want to fly off to the next big gig. If you’re considering buying a Holden, because your dad did that, and his dad before him, and that’s what you’ve been doing up until now - it’s time to step back, look at the evidence, and make some smarter choices.

Don’t forget to tell the manufacturer the VIN code of your car, today, if you bought it used, just in case they know it’s got a loose pin in its hand grenade - but they don’t know you’re the one who’s about to pull it. Leave a comment below, let me know what you think.