By on June 10, 2019

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.

Image: Audi

“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]

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20 Comments on “Audi’s First Electric Vehicle Recalled Over Fire Risk...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “moisture could enter battery cells through a flaw in a wiring harness”

    This makes no sense, since battery cells themselves are supposed to be sealed, independent of any wiring attached to them.

  • avatar

    Can we now bin the Lucas jokes? Jaguar is the only premium car maker whose electric cars don’t pose a fire risk!

  • avatar

    I’ve seen stories from Europe that once the responders knock an EV fire down, they bring a crane and submerge the whole chassis in a water-filled large dumpster. Apparently this eliminates secondary fires. At the very least, the wreck should be stored at a location where it can’t cause additional damage to surroundings.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Finally, a ‘real’ automaker who can design and build an EV properly, unlike those amateurs at Tesla.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, this mostly differs from Tesla in that they say they’ve identified the cause of the fires and are making physical modifications to address them.

      • 0 avatar

        Another difference is that there haven’t actually been any Audi fires so far. According to this information, it’s just that some moisture has been recorded in some batteries, but no fire has yet occurred.

    • 0 avatar

      Tesla is unable to design and build an EV properly, too, as demonstrated by the fact that its cars STILL cannot be fully charged in the same time as it takes to fill a fuel tank, while having a range comparable with a diesel car and being competitive without incentives and government handouts. That probably makes Elon Musk the world’s most incompetent automotive CEO, as other automakers are able to pull this off by using tried-and-tested ICE technology, whereas Musk doesn’t even come close with his amateur battery-powered penalty boxes. What a disgrace!

  • avatar

    German cars having problems with electrical components? Color me shocked.

  • avatar

    They intentionally designed it to look like ICE SUV? How stupid is that? The last thing I want from EV is to look like ICE vehicle. Overly a mediocre EV.

  • avatar

    I can see detached garages making a comeback.

  • avatar

    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.

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