Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Safety Alert

GM recalls 43,000 hybrid vehicles for fire risks

General Motors Co. is recalling nearly 43,000 newer vehicles sold the United States for fire risks that are equipped with the company's eAssist mild hybrid system, the automaker said Monday.

GM said the recall was prompted by cases of circuit boards shorting in the Generator Control Module, or GCM, of vehicles with eAssist. The recall covers the 2012-2013 Buick LaCrosse, Regal and 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco. The issue isn't related to the battery in the hybrid systems, GM spokesman Alan Adler said.

The Detroit automaker said the short could cause a loss of battery charge, engine stalling or a failure to start. "In addition, there may be a burning or melting odor, smoke and possibly a fire in the trunk," GM told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

GM says two trunk fires have been reported, including one in the trunk of a vehicle that was at a dealership. The eAssist system is made up of a 32-cell, 0.5-kW lithium-ion battery, an electric motor-generator and six-speed transmission. The system's electric motor-generator provides motor assist and electric-generating functions through a revised engine belt-drive system. The 115V lithium-ion battery is integrated into a power pack located in a compartment between the rear seat and trunk. The power pack weighs 65 pounds and trunk space is reduced from other models. An electric fan cools the power pack, drawing air from a vent located in the package tray, behind the rear seat.

GM has been studying the issue since last summer after it saw a spike in warranty reports in May 2012. GM's investigation found shorting could occur but determined "the short would not cause a fire outside the GCM." In early October, GM decided to conduct a service update of unsold vehicles to determine if it should replace the GCM units for possible shorting.

On Oct. 24, GM learned of a fire in a trunk of a vehicle at a GM dealership that was undergoing the service update. GM then issued a stop build/shipping order and expanded the number of vehicles that were covered by the service campaign.

On March 25, GM learned of a fire in a vehicle that had been updated.

On April 1, NHTSA asked GM about "flammability" reports involving the vehicles. GM turned over a summary of the field reports to the federal agency on April 12. After a conference call with the agency on April 25, GM decided to recall the vehicles.

GM dealers will replace the GCM if necessary. http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130506/AUTO0103/305060402#ixzz2So1XIiyq