On Friday, General Motors announced that its recall of the Chevrolet Bolt would result in a loss of $1 billion. But only after it expanded the campaign to encompass every electric vehicle it has produced. Rather than a single $800-million defect requiring fire-prone models to come back for repairs, GM is now confronting two problems and including Bolts (and Bolt EUVs) from 2019 onwards. The automaker has said this will necessitate an additional billion-dollar financial setback.
Keen to avoid being the recipient of the swelling public outrage, the manufacturer has been trying to shift criticism onto battery supplier LG Chem. The South Korean firm has been involved in numerous fire-related recalls pertaining to electric vehicles and GM would very much like to remind you of that, rather than take the blame for building and selling EVs that it’s advising customers not to charge too much or park anywhere near their home.
“Our focus on safety and doing the right thing for our customers guides every decision we make at GM,” stated Doug Parks, GM executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “As leaders in the transition to an all-electric future, we know that building and maintaining trust is critical. GM customers can be confident in our commitment to taking the steps to ensure the safety of these vehicles.”
GM said that, after further investigation into the manufacturing processes at LG and disassembling battery packs, is discovered new manufacturing defects in select battery cells produced at LG manufacturing facilities beyond the Ochang, Korea, plant. The duo are now supposed to be working on a fix while GM pursues a commitment from LG “for reimbursement of this field action.”
That’s cooperate speak for “they better give us money.”
While LG absolutely deserves plenty of blame, we cannot forget that General Motors has been installing these battery packs into its vehicles for years and presumably subjected them to the kind of testing that should have revealed something was amiss. It already issued software updates that failed to solve the fire-risk problem and needed to issue a legitimate recall on older Bolt vehicles to replace battery modules. On the newer models, some batteries are said to run the risk of suffering from a torn anode tab and/or folded separator and will likewise need to be fixed.
That means GM is recalling every single Bolt manufactured.
Automotive News was issuing examples of consumer complaints on Monday, acknowledging that there have been just nine confirmed vehicle fires. But that’s sufficient for the public trust to be eroded, placing the competence of GM and LG into question while also damaging the public trust in electrification.
“My biggest fear is that they’ll ask for the cars” back, like with the EV1, [Bolt-owner Brandin Mercer] said. “There’s no other electric car I can buy for the price I got this one for. I would be out of luck.”
Jon Lawrence, a retired technologist from St. Clair Shores, Mich., purchased a 2022 model of the new Bolt EUV crossover at the end of June. He’s had no complaints so far, but the fires in older Bolts have been weighing on him.
Numerous Bolt owners have filed public complaints with NHTSA, expressing safety concerns and griping about poor communication from GM.
A customer from Wakefield, Mass., asked GM to buy back the Bolts unless it had a sure solution, calling the vehicle a “ticking time bomb that can potentially burn down my house, with my family’s dead bodies in it.”
While many outlets (particularly those that champion EVs) often cite that gasoline-powered vehicles appear to be the most fire-prone, cumulative data has started to make the issue much more complicated. The vast majority of gasoline-related fires stem from severe crashes or older vehicles that have failed to be properly maintained. EVs wrecks can likewise set the car ablaze, often resulting in harder-to-put-out fires. But the big issue comes from charging defects that result in the car burning itself down inside people’s homes. Worse still is that these aren’t problems that appear to be exclusive to the Bolt or even batteries supplied by LG Chem.
But those are the companies paying now, with LG already losing money before it decides how it’s to handle the “reimbursement” desired by General Motors. While both companies saw their share prices dip following every recall announcement, LG shares closed down 11 percent on Monday. Undoubtedly the result of the most recent GM recall, the company is estimated to have lost at least $6 billion in market value.
This also does not bode well for the initial public offering it has been preparing for its battery division LG Energy Solution. Originally planned for September, we’re expecting the IPO to be postponed so it gains some distance from the recall.
If you own a Chevrolet Bolt (or Bolt EUV) you are advised to set the vehicle to a 90-percent state of charge limitation and refrain from letting the battery be depleted below 70 miles of range. It’s also recommended you charge the vehicle frequently and always leave it parked outdoors to mitigate fire risks. If you’re not sure how to do any of that, Chevrolet will give you step-by-step instructions on its recall page. Customers can also take their vehicle into a service center to have technicians set it up to give you the best chance of it not burning down before the true repairs can be completed.
[Images: General Motors]
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