And it's disguising the pay-off as a reimbursement due to price drops on 2023 models.
If you've been out of the loop on affordable EVs lately, for the 2023 model year, Chevrolet is slashing prices on the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV by around $5,000 each, making the Bolt twins the most affordable EVs in America.
Naturally, buyers of 2022 Chevy Bolts are feeling hard done by. Imagine you'd bought a Bolt 1LT for $31,500 only to find out a few days later the 2023 equivalent would only have cost you $26,595, including destination. Chevrolet has realized this and is offering to pay 2022 Bolt buyers $6,000 to compensate.
So what's the catch? As it turns out, if you accept the money, you waive all legal rights to be able to sue General Motor in the event something goes wrong with your vehicle - including a fire caused by the battery or anything else.
As first flagged by Jalopnik, owners of Bolts purchased during the 2022 model year can apply for the reimbursement offer on a dedicated Chevrolet website. But in the process, a legal agreement appears. Most of it is fairly blanket stuff, nothing out of the ordinary, except for clause 1b.
The clause reads:
"By nonetheless agreeing to this Release, I-both on my own behalf and on behalf of my heirs, agents, servants, beneficiaries, legal representatives, assigns, wards, executors, successors, and administrators-forever waive and release all claims, damages, or causes of action, either known or unknown, regardless of the legal or equitable theory, that I may have now or in the future arising out of or in any way relating to my Bolt vehicle(s), the battery defect, or the battery recalls, and including any claims or rights that I may have in connection with the class action, including any right to participate as a class member."
To put it in layman's terms, if you accept the reimbursement offer, you are never allowed to claim against GM for any defect, including battery-related defects such as the spate of fires that brought Bolt EV production to a complete standstill.
You are also not allowed to participate in any class-action lawsuits against GM relating to these faults. Ever. Even if your car burns to a crisp, and potentially your whole house if the car is parked in your garage. If you died in a fire caused by the known issues, your family wouldn't be allowed to sue either.
It seems Chevrolet is paying off customers to avoid legal woes, not reimbursing them because it cares about their financial wellbeing.
CarBuzz reached out to Chevrolet for comment regarding the agreement and was given the following statement:
"The agreement for the reimbursement program does contain language that waives claims against GM and identifies existing litigation. This is a common practice when it comes to programs like this. It does not waive claims involving any potential recalls in the future."
So if another recall for the Bolt were to happen, relating to the batteries, for example, Chevrolet would still cover your vehicle, even if you accepted the money. But if you tried to sue Chevrolet for loss or damage caused as a result, your legal rights would be null and void.
Ordinarily, this might have been the sort of thing to fly under the radar, but Chevrolet hasn't had an easy time with the Bolt.
Chevy Bolts and Bolt EUVs have been involved in several recalls regarding electrical fires, with as many as 141,000 cars potentially at risk of going up in flames. Chevrolet at first denied the issue, then advised owners to park outside and far away from buildings.
Eventually, after 16 fires, a problem was acknowledged, with Chevrolet pointing the finger at its battery supplier, LG Chem. Chevrolet was buying back Bolts at risk and replacing batteries in others, and the cost of the warranty claims and recalls reached $800 million by August of 2021. In total, costs exceeded $2 billion.
GM fixed the affected cars and even offered to give window stickers to affected owners that declared their vehicle was "GM Certified" not to be a fire risk. In November 2021, a software update to the Bolt was installed to pick up on battery anomalies, and charge capacity was limited to 80% to prevent more flaming mishaps.
Bolt production resumed in April 2022, and the company did everything it could to try and shift the focus away from this incident, recently launching a dedicated website to educate EV owners on how to look after their vehicles.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If General Motors had resolved all the issues fully and was genuinely confident that new Bolt EVs and EUVs are not at risk, why ask owners to waive the legal right to claim at all? GM claims this is common practice. Perhaps it is. But it strikes us as odd.
This isn't the only time General Motors has been in the spotlight recently for getting clients to sign dubious waivers. Cadillac recently agreed to pay Lyriq drivers $5,500 if they agreed to provide tracking data with GM but not with third parties - including safety agencies.