Why Did GM Recall Every Chevy Bolt Ever Made?

The fire risk is a $1.8 billion mistake for an automaker investing heavily in EVs. Who’s to blame?

A Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Chevrolet Bolt EV driving down the highway. GM recalled all model years of the electric vehicles after risk of battery fires.
The refreshed Chevy Bolt EUV and EV were supposed to kickstart GM's electric dominance.

On Friday, General Motors made the expensive decision to recall every single Chevy Bolt ever made, which amounts to over 140,000 of the electric vehicles, due to fire risk from the battery packs. The sale of the EVs is also on pause indefinitely, per Reuters.

According to the outlet, the automaker officially knows about 10 fires that have occurred across model years (which run from 2017 to 2022). There are other incidents that have cropped up that aren’t included in that tally, including a 2020 model that caught fire last week in Los Angeles. But GM says the full recall was instituted largely due to the company’s investigation into the battery manufacturing process at supplier LG and the batteries themselves, “which revealed manufacturing defects,” writes the Detroit Free Press.

“Out of an abundance of caution, GM will replace defective battery modules in Chevrolet Bolt EVs and EUVs with new modules, with an expected additional cost of approximately $1 billion,” GM said in a press release. That financial figure is just for the latest recall of the remaining 2019 and 2020-2022 model years that were added to those that were previously recalled from the 2017-2019 years. The final total recall cost for GM? About $1.8 billion.

So who is to blame here? General Motors and Chevrolet, who make the cars, or LG Chemical Solution, who makes the batteries? According to GM, they are “pursuing commitments from LG for reimbursement of this field action,” which means they’re laying the blame at the South Korean company’s feet. Meanwhile, Bloomberg writes that LG says the “expense will be divvied up depending on the results from a joint investigation into the root cause of the problem,” which means they’re not ready to accept all the blame just yet.

Either way, it’s a distressing time for GM, who was hoping the revived Bolt would kickstart the company’s EV dominance. After all, the company has said it will sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. 

On the other hand, while fire hazards like this are not to be taken lightly — the company said in July that Bolt owners should park their vehicles outside and away from structures, and that they should not charge the vehicles overnight — the full voluntary recall does show how seriously GM wants to get electrification right and protect its image. (GM promises to replace battery modules for Bolt owners, and offer U.S. owners an 8-year/100,00-mile limited warranty.) Plus, for future EVs like the upcoming Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq, Reuters notes those will be powered by different generation batteries.

If you own a Bolt and are looking for recall information or what to do while you’re waiting for new battery modules, visit Chevrolet’s website.

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