DETROIT (AP) — The government ended its safety investigation into the Chevrolet Volt on Friday after concluding that the Volt and other electric cars don't pose a greater fire risk than gasoline-powered cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began studying the Volt last June after a fire broke out in one of the cars three weeks after it was crashed as part of safety testing. Two other fires occurred later related to separate safety tests, and NHTSA opened an official investigation into the vehicle on Nov. 25.
The agency and General Motors Co. know of no fires in real-world crashes.
GM and federal safety officials say they believe the fires were caused by coolant leaking from damaged plastic casing around the batteries after side-impact collisions. The coolant caused an electrical short, which sparked battery fires seven days to three weeks after the crashes.
GM announced earlier this month that it will add steel plates to about 12,000 existing Volts to protect the batteries in the event of a crash. The company has sold around 8,000 Volts and 4,000 are still for sale. GM is repairing the vehicles for free. NHTSA didn't order the recall, as it sometimes does after a safety investigation.
Zynga mulls online
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Zynga, the social game company known for "FarmVille" and "Zynga Poker," is mulling a new market — online gambling.
Zynga Inc. confirmed Friday that it is in active talks with potential partners. San Francisco-based Zynga says it is speaking to the potential partners in order to "better understand and explore" the opportunity in online gambling involving real money.
The company's "Zynga Poker" title is the world's largest online poker game. Zynga says seven million people play every day and 30 million do so each month. That game, however, is played with fake money.
The talks come in the heels of a recent ruling by the U.S. Justice Department, which found that in-state Internet gambling does not violate federal law. Zynga's talks were first reported by the tech blog AllThingsD.
Home sales up
WASHINGTON (AP) — Home sales in December reached their highest pace in nearly a year. The gain coincided with other signs that the troubled U.S. housing market improved at the end of last year.
Analysts cautioned that sales remain historically low and that it will take years for the home market to return to full health.
Still, the third straight monthly sales increase was encouraging. And economists noted that conditions are in place for further gains this year:
Prices have declined. Mortgage rates have never been lower. Homebuilders are slightly more hopeful because more people are saying they might be open to buying this year. And home construction picked up in the final quarter of last year.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. It's the best level since January 2011.
For all of 2011, sales totaled only 4.26 million. That's up slightly from 4.19 million in the previous year. But it's far below the 6 million that economists equate with healthy housing markets. In 2005, at the peak of the boom, 7.1 million homes were sold.