By on August 23, 2021

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.

From AN:

“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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39 Comments on “GM Upset With Battery Supplier, Expands Bolt Recall Again...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    Dammit. I thought I had escaped, since my car was not on the list for either of the previous attempts at this recall.

    The recall won’t affect me much in the short term, because I already limit charge to 90% for battery lifespan reasons and we rarely go below 60% in daily use. But it will affect resale value until it’s my car’s turn to get the cells replaced, so I guess I’m keeping the car for a while whether I had planned to or not.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    That is what is called “emerging technologies pains”.

    I could be wrong, but…
    Although electric vehicles have been around for a while, mass production of those vehicles, with Tesla’s notable exception, is still far from reaching a commodity like familiarity.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Hopefully GM is testing, or has thoroughly tested, their fancy new Ultium batteries. If not this could really start to get expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        a) “Our focus on safety and doing the right thing for our customers guides every decision we make at GM”

        b) Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion

        https://tinyurl.com/ThisRightHereLink

    • 0 avatar
      ffighter69

      What do you mean except Tesla. How many people have died or beeen seriously injured because they like driving into emergency vehicles or can’t tell the difference between the braod side of a white tractor trailer and the sky.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    It’s interesting to note how reporting went from documenting individual Teslas catching on fire to now massive recalls for the risk across all brands.
    It’s like the big car manufacturers are treating buyers like beta testers.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I had normies asking me about this over the weekend so not a great time for GM. Bodes well for $100K Hummer sales too.

    Guess it’s time for a name chance. From Boltalier to Bolbalt.

    I’ll say that for now the sentiment is less “EVs suck” and more “GM sucks”. If another manufacturer suffers a high profile problem that might change though.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @ajila: From what I have heard, it was manufacturing quality issues at one particular plant. Still, GM should have been monitoring it. Quality is critical. Even Tesla, their quality is painfully laughable on everything except the cell and pack manufacturing. If there is one thing that you need to get right is making the cells and the pack. That’s why I’m not concerned about product delays caused by the need to get battery manufacturing right.

      The good news is that most newer tech won’t have those issues. Toyota’s solid-state battery won’t be as bad since it doesn’t have flammable electrolytes. Sodium-ion, that I’m a huge fan of, is super safe and doesn’t even need a battery management system. The sooner we move to the new technology the better.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      The Hyundai Kona EV has also undergone a massive fire-related recall after a dozen reports and stopped production in South Korea in April. Its battery supplier was also LG Chem.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        That might be an issue internationally but Hyundai did not even offer the Kona EV for sale in my state so I’m not sure how many people know it existed.

      • 0 avatar
        Varezhka

        VW ID.3 (also LG Chem) catching fire while charging was on the news last week, so we may be seeing more of these recalls soon. Fortunately for VW, the ID.3 haven’t exactly been putting the sales chart on fire so there shouldn’t be very many to take back.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Last report that I read is that there were something between 5 and 10 fires for all the thousands of Bolts produced? Sounds like the odds of mine burning up are commensurate with the chance that I’m going to win the Powerball lottery.

    As to the restrictions, I’ve always limited my charging to 90% unless I know I’m doing a long haul run the next day, and my car sits outside since one garage is motorcycles, and the other is my wife’s car which is newer and worth more, and I’ll usually plug it back in anytime it gets under 50% charging. That said, I’m happy as hell with the car and really don’t want to give it up until the day comes that I can afford a newer model EV.

    I’m not particularly worried. And the thought of a new battery pack in the coming year is a pleasant one. And yeah, knowing I’m an early-ish adopter had me expecting that there might be a bug or two.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I really like mine too. For all of this drama, my own ownership experience has been literally 100% flawless. The only maintenance I’ve done in the 2 years 4 months I’ve owned the car is a cabin filter replacement, a tire rotation, and cleaning.

      I even took it on a road trip a few weeks ago when I needed to come back before the rest of the family for work reasons. Used a public L2 charger overnight and had ample battery both ways. Also dusted a Cummins Ram who attempted to roll coal on me, which was even more satisfying than you’d think.

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      As is typical, these recalls are less about your well-being and more about the risk to GM’s bottom line. It may cost them a cool billion to fix it now, but if, god forbid, someone were to get killed by one of these cars catching fire, it could cost them many times that amount in legal fees, payouts, and future sales.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “As to the restrictions, I’ve always limited my charging to 90%”

      Then you don’t have a clue how your system works.

      Already, the system keeps the state of charge in the sweet spot–not letting it get too low, not letting it get too high. This is to maximize battery life, just like you want.

      And because the system was engineered to do so, you don’t need to do so. Your doing extra on this matter leads to you leaving range on the table.

      And before you say anything, that 100% that you see is actually 100% of what the engineers want you to see. It’s not 100% of the actual raw battery capacity.

      They show you 0% and 100%, but it ain’t 0% and 100%. They’re not that stupid.

      So you’re actually limiting your charge to 72%, to no actual effect or benefit.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Disagree. The engineers have no doubt held some capacity back to enhance battery lifespan, but you can still enhance it further by avoiding extremes even within the range they give you. LiIon batteries are at their very happiest when regularly charged and discharged within a relatively narrow range of around 40% to 70% of capacity. Of course that’s not enough battery capacity for most things that have batteries, but when you can stay in that range, it helps battery lifespan.

        I almost never use more than 30% of my Bolt’s stated range in daily driving, so I have no reason to charge the battery to 100% (and nothing whatsoever to gain from doing so) unless I’m about to take a longer-than-usual trip.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      “Sounds like the odds of mine burning up are commensurate with the chance that I’m going to win the Powerball lottery.”

      They’ve sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 100k Bolts. 10 out of 100k seems quite a bit more likely than your 1 in 252 million shot at hitting the Powerball.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Seems like a no brainer for the ambulance chasers to start class actions. Imagine if an automaker told you to park you ice car outside. Only fill the tank to 90 percent and don’t let it get below a quarter tank. The loss of utility would spark outrage and lower resale. I realize ICE vehicles have had fire issues too. Sounds like LG chem is as much or more to blame but my guess is most will lay this on GM alone. Too bad, seems like a reasonably good vehicle, overpriced for me but with taxpayers picking up a chunk of the purchase price I can see the appeal.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hyundai knew from the beginning that a software fix wasn’t going to cut it for this same problem, so they decided to simply replace all the packs in the Konas and some Ioniqs (not mine).

    Hyundai also managed the Jedi mind trick of getting LG Chem to absorb 70% of the replacement cost, which was also around $900 million, I think. Seems fair to me, as Hyundai should own some of the blame, as should GM in this case.

    If anyone is wondering what the relationship is between the software patch, filling amount, and fire risk, here it is:

    – Lithium ion batteries physically swell when charged. Limiting the charge/discharge percentage keeps the battery’s dimensions more stable, reducing the opportunity for the improperly bent metal pieces in the battery to short out. However, this gamble depends on knowing *exactly* how distorted the parts are, and understanding *exactly* the internal movement of the parts when the battery charges, under all conditions.

    – As it turns out, at least one or two Bolts caught fire *after* they were ‘fixed’ by the dealer, indicating that GM didn’t properly understand the physical nature of the problem.

    Even if their patch had worked, it handicaps the vehicle forever.

  • avatar
    Socrates77

    Haha, this was about to happen, GM and its bean counters that killed almost 200 people and injure hundreds more due to a cheap ignition switch. Now this all because they don’t care about testing and providing a decent product. GM is all about stock them deep and sell them cheap. That’s what they get for being gritty and their investors for turning a blind eye to GM low quality products.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “Keen to avoid being the recipient of the swelling public outrage, the manufacturer has been trying to shift criticism onto battery supplier LG Chem.”

    And in the end, it will come out that LG Chem recommended that the batteries be built THEIR way, because they’re the experts at it, but in the end the GM managers acted like Morton Thiokol managers at the shuttle launch and instead demanded that LG Chem’s batteries were too expensive, and that LG Chem put on its sales hat and just ship what the pointy-haired GM bosses said to ship so that GM could sell cars/make more profit.

  • avatar

    Now I understand why GM did not really want to sell Bolt. It kept it low profile and no marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Somehow, they managed to sell about 115k of them. That’s not that many to recall. Imagine if they had to recall all the Malibu’s – just the 9th generation since 2016: 750,000 of them.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    The S.O. and bought a Mach E after my 9-year old Edge Sport daily driver smoked it’s transmission and, well it’d take month plus to get it repaired and the Mach E AWD Select sat there and we did some quick math: Decent trade in-check, fed tax credit-check, save ~$15-$16 a day in fuel (about 90 miles a day) & no service charges other than tire rotations and inspections. Electricity at .0634/KWH. Check and check and Check.

    Local hot rodders and gear heads ask me what I think and I say: It tracks nicely, dead quiet, appointed well, seats 5, has storage room, looks sharp and.. sorta like driving a big block with a 2-barrel carb. Damn quick. Took a 5.0 driving friend for a ride and says, “that’s quick, like right now”. Then he sighs and says, “I just love that 5.0 …I’m just getting over my midlife…and I’ll sure get an electric…eventually” and I say, “I’d rather have the flat-plane”.

    Here’s the thing, I still drive our TT Flex occasionally and it’s a lot of fun but it’s soon in the past. ICE isn’t going anywhere but it’ll be passed by way faster exotic tech much in the same way computer injection/computer chips/forced induction passed the 4 barrel. The Mach E is a true SUV. The 5.0 my friend drives? More like V8 art. To each his/her own.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    The S.O. and bought a Mach E after my 9-year old Edge Sport daily driver smoked it’s transmission and, well it’d take month plus to get it repaired and the Mach E AWD Select sat there and we did some quick math: Decent trade in-check, fed tax credit-check, save ~$15-$16 a day in fuel (about 90 miles a day) & no service charges other than tire rotations and inspections. Electricity at .0634/KWH. Check and check and check.

    Local hot rodders and gear heads ask me what I think and I say: It tracks nicely, dead quiet, appointed well, seats 5, has storage room, looks sharp and.. sorta like driving a big block with a 2-barrel carb. Damn quick. Took a 5.0 driving friend for a ride and says, “that’s quick, like right now”. Then he sighs and says, “I just love that 5.0 …I’m just getting over my midlife…and I’ll sure get an electric…eventually” and I say, “I’d rather have the flat-plane”.

    Here’s the thing, I still drive our TT Flex occasionally and it’s a lot of fun but it’s soon in the past. ICE isn’t going anywhere but it’ll be passed by way faster exotic tech much in the same way computer injection/computer chips/forced induction passed the 4 barrel. The Mach E is a true SUV. The 5.0 my friend drives? More like V8 art. To each his/her own.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    “ticking time bomb that can potentially burn down my house, with my family’s dead bodies in it.”

    Smoke detectors are surprisingly effective and relatively affordable. My favorite model costs $4.44 apiece at Walmart (pick up several).

    General instructions: If there is a fire, put it out if you can do so safely [next up: “Best Fire Extinguishers”]. If you can’t, get the family members out of the house. No roasted bodies. It’s a pretty good system.

    For further reading:
    https://www.asecurelife.com/common-causes-home-fires/

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>General instructions: If there is a fire, put it out if you can do so safely [next up: “Best Fire Extinguishers”].

      not a typical home fire

      ev lithium battery fires are notoriously difficult to put out – they can take hours and hours and 10’s of thousands of gallons of water – they keep reigniting

  • avatar
    Socrates77

    They put plastic jacks on their small cars, this is their high profit mentality that cause this.

  • avatar
    GregLocock

    The following sentences demonstrate a lack of critical thinking, and a complete lack of engineering and statistical analysis.

    “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.

    …acknowledging that there have been just nine confirmed vehicle fires. ”

    So out of all the Bolts sold (~100000) there have been 9 fires. So how many Bolts would GM have had to test just to get ONE fire? Roughly 10000.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Not to let anybody off the hook, but I’ll just point out that BMW has had multiple recalls to deal with spontaneously combusting vehicles. Ain’t just an EV issue.
    https://money.cnn.com/2012/01/16/autos/mini_cooper_recall/index.htm
    https://carbuzz.com/news/a-whole-bunch-of-bmw-and-mini-models-may-catch-fire

  • avatar

    between this and chips, heads need to roll.

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