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Chevy Volt: Worried about fire? Sell it back.

Chevy Volt battery fires in lab tests may have some owners spooked. So GM offers to buy back any Chevy Volt.

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A Chevrolet Volt sits next to a newly installed electric vehicle charging station outside General Motor Co world headquarters in Detroit in October. This week, General Motors said it would go so far as to buy back any Chevy Volt if drivers were worried about battery fires that have cropped up in laboratory crash tests.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters/File

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Afraid your new Chevrolet Volt will catch on fire? General Motors will go as far as to buy it back from you.

As safety investigations continue on the electric car, which caught fire following test crashes, GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson said the automaker would repurchase Volts from any concerned consumers.

The assurance marked an escalation of the company's response to the post-crash reports. Earlier this week, GM offered to loan free vehicles to Chevy Volt owners until the safety concerns were resolved.

"While the investigation is going on, we will do whatever it takes to allay concerns and keep our customers happy," said GM spokesman Greg Martin, "and if that includes repurchase, we will work individually with any customer."

Martin said that once GM's engineering team and federal safety officials figure out the cause of the fires, which occurred one to three weeks after the crash tests, the company would, if necessary, recall and retrofit everyVolt that has been sold.

GM has sold about 6,000 Volts, Martin said. So far, about 30 owners have taken the company up on its loaner offer. Martin said details of how a repurchase plan would work had not been determined.

Auto analyst Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com said the company was fortunate, in the context of the repurchase, that only a small number of cars had been sold.

"GM is only dealing with a few thousand cars," Caldwell said. "It's much more manageable than a widespread car, like a (Toyota) Camry or Honda Accord, which would be logistically very tough and financially very complicated to do something like a repurchase."

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GM said there had been no reports from consumers of fires. "The Volt's a safe car," Martin said. "These concerns are based on three incidents up to three weeks after a severe test crash."

John O'Dell, senior editor at Edmunds.com, said he didn't think the company would have to buy back manyVolts, which travel on battery power for 40 miles before a gasoline engine begins to act as a generator, extending the range an additional 300 miles.

"It's an offer you can make when you don't expect many people to take you up on it," O'Dell said. "Most of these cars have been sold to the early-adopter customers.

"They are the least likely people to complain about the car because they want this kind of technology; they've been waiting for it."

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