General Motors Co. said it is recalling 1.5 million vehicles with heated washer-fluid systems following engine fires that occurred even after a 2008 fix on many of the same cars for similar problems.
The recalls, to begin by June 14, will affect 18 models of 2006-2009 Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, GMCs, Hummers and Saturns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its Web site today.
In August 2008, GM recalled about 858,000 cars and trucks following reports of fires resulting from shorts in the system that heats windshield-washer fluid. Dealers installed a wire harness that contained a fuse.
However, the module's internal thermal-protection device, or solder cup, “did not function as designed,” GM said in a June 4 letter to NHTSA that was posted today.
GM said it has learned of five fires, including several that occurred while the vehicle was unattended. The company is not aware of any injuries or crashes.
“While our analysis shows the number of incidents is very small compared with the number of vehicles on the road, we want our customers to have complete peace of mind,” said Jeff Boyer, GM's executive director of safety.
The models of cars, trucks and crossovers included in the recall are the 2006-09 Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Hummer H2; the 2008-09 Buick Enclave and Cadillac CTS; and the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse.
Also included are the 2007-09 Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV and EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL; and Saturn Outlook.
While 1.4 million of the vehicles to be recalled are in the United States, there are others in Canada, Mexico and other countries, GM said in a statement.
Once the heated-washer fluid system is removed, the vehicles will no longer have the winter convenience of warm fluid to clean the frozen windshield, GM spokesman Greg Martin said.
GM said it plans to pay $100 to vehicle owners as compensation for permanently disabling and removing the heated washer fluid system. If all 1.5 million vehicles recalled are brought in, GM would pay out roughly $150 million, plus the cost of the actual fixes. GM, in court documents, projected the cost of the first recall was between $20 million and $25 million.
The heat is off
The original units, called HotShot, were manufactured by a suburban Detroit supplier called Microheat Inc.
Microheat's technology gained praise. In 2006, the company was a finalist for an Automotive News PACE Award given annually for supplier product and process innovation. PACE stands for Premier Automotive Suppliers' Contribution to Excellence.
But after GM's problems with HotShot began to emerge in 2008, Microheat ceased production of the units and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Microheat's Web site is no longer active.