General Motors is on a tear with suspicious rebate programs for EV customers lately. First, Cadillac was offering early Lyriq buyers an exclusive feedback program where owners share vehicle data and report back about ownership, and aren’t allowed to discuss potential issues with the car with a third party, for a rebate of $5,500—a gambit that has NHTSA concerned, should the NDA get in the way of defect reporting requirements. Now, Chevrolet is offering a rebate of around $5,400 to some Bolt EV and EUV owners, except the offer makes the owner void all legal rights to sue if anything bad were to happen to the car.
For an idea why this might be of concern, keep in mind that Bolt models were recently recalled over battery fire issues. On the surface, Chevy’s new Bolt rebate offer, dug up via Jalopnik, is said to be an after-sale price adjustment to reflect Chevy recently dropping prices on the Bolt EV and EUV. It’s an opportunity for owners to make some money back if they timed their purchase before the EVs’ big recent price changes (there was one for 2022, and another for 2023).
However, in the legal agreement language, Chevy also stipulates that owners and their families “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 related to [their] Bolt vehicle.” Essentially, Chevy is offering money in exchange for legal immunity from any potential future Bolt issues or class-action lawsuits, at least regarding those owners who take the rebate. The vehicle’s warranty and any future recalls would still be covered under their own terms, just no legal options if something beyond that scope were to go wrong.
The timing is interesting. In November 2020, a NHTSA recall was issued concerning a serious battery fire risk for the Bolt EV and production of both the EV and EUV were halted. An order went out for owners to park their vehicles outside until the fix went out via a software update, and then, after a reemergence of issues, more fixes went out in 2021. At least five models caught fire before the first recall of all 2017-2019 model year Bolts.
This sort of issue-prone vehicle payout scheme isn’t novel, but this is an interesting case. If you take Chevy’s rebate and your Bolt were to catch fire and possibly spread to other stuff like your garage or house, which is a distinct possibility if your car were to catch fire, you’d be out of luck with six stacks burning a hole in your pocket. Even if there was a big class-action suit against Chevy you’d be on the sidelines. It’s a big choice, and hopefully Chevy has sorted out the fire issues so we can avoid something messy like that.
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