Audi's First Electric Vehicle Recalled Over Fire Risk

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

It’s not good PR for a brand hoping to snap up wary would-be converts, but it does suggest that Audi’s quality management apparatus is at least partly up to snuff.

On Monday the German automaker announced a voluntary recall of 540 E-Tron SUVs sold in the United States out of fear that a glitch could spark a large and hard-to-control fire. The E-Tron, a fully electric midsize SUV with a (happily) conventional appearance, saw its first full month of U.S. sales in May, moving 856 units.

As reported by Bloomberg, the automaker is concerned moisture could enter the battery compartment through a faulty seal, potentially leading to a short circuit or even a serious fire. Audi calls the latter scenario an “extreme case.” Lithium-ion battery cells are highly volatile if breached by air or moisture; the resulting fire, as seen in several recent Tesla Model S incidents, can erupt quickly and prove very difficult to extinguish.

In total, 1,644 E-Trons are under recall for the issue. Through the end of May, Audi sold 1,109 of the EVs in the U.S., with the model going on sale in April.

While no fires or injuries have been reported as a result of the flaw, Audi claims five instances of battery fault lights turning on because of moisture seepage. The company began informing owners last week, with a fix available starting in August, Audi claims.

“We are applying an abundance of caution as no such incidents have been reported globally,” the company said in a statement, referring to fires.

Not all of the Brussels-built E-Trons assembled thus far contain the flaw, apparently. The automaker claims the model remains available, and it doesn’t appear that there is a stop sale order in place for the vehicle.

As they await a fix, affected owners are being told they’re eligible for an $800 cash card to cover gas purchases, rentals, and other costs stemming from the recall. Free roadside towing has been extended to these owners, too.

As for Tesla, the automaker continues investigating the cause of a rash of car fires spanning the globe. Following the most recent fire in Antwerp, Belgium, the company issued an over-the-air update to the charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles.

Getting ahead of any serious problems and being transparent about it is key to ensuring consumer trust in any product, and Audi seems to know this. The company has three more electric E-Tron models waiting in the wings, with even more poised to enter the fray in years to come.

[Images: Audi AG]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 11, 2019

    I can see detached garages making a comeback.

  • Asdf Asdf on Jun 11, 2019

    Building BEVs makes no sense, given the current level of technology, and Audi should stop doing it ASAP. Fortunately, the e-Tron hasn't been on the market very long, so not many would notice if Audi did the right thing and stopped selling it. It's the ONLY sensible thing to do. After all, in addition to the fire risk, the e-Tron is DEFECTIVE by design, as it needs more than a reasonable five minutes to fully recharge, which is utterly ridiculous in 2019, as ICE-powered cars have been able to do so for DECADES, and holding BEVs to a different standard makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Unfortunately for Audi, cheating its way out of the EXTREMELY LONG charging times is not possible, so the fire risk is a blessing in disguise, as it gives Audi a plausible excuse to pull the e-Tron from the market.

  • Jimbo1126 Can't believe I'm the first to comment that I find the 4 window sedans much more interesting than the 6 window ones.
  • ToolGuy I was making especially gentle stops on my drive home today... because my brake booster is failing.
  • Tane94 I thought Hyundai was phasing out the 1.6 turbo?
  • Wjtinfwb Jeep could build Wrangler's in Russia and they'd still be a symbol of America. Can't say I thought about it before hand but our 3 Ford's were all built in America (Kentucky & Michigan) and our Subaru was built by Hoosier's in Indiana. We do have a Canada built MDX as well, at least their on the same continent.
  • ToolGuy Modified square wave inverters are a Communist plot.