DETROIT - Engine fires are forcing General Motors to recall the Chevy Cruze, a popular model that has helped GM win back small-car buyers.
The recall covers 475,000 vehicles made in the U.S. from September 2010 through May 2012. It's the car's fifth recall since it arrived in showrooms nearly two years ago, raising questions about the sedan's reliability.
The fires can break out when fluids drip onto a hot plastic shield below the engine. The problem occurs mainly when oil is spilled and not properly cleaned up during changes, GM said Friday.
The company knows of 30 fires caused by the problem, but no injuries have been reported, spokesman Alan Adler said. Flames engulfed and destroyed cars in two cases reported to federal safety officials.
GM will notify owners starting July 11 about when to bring cars to local dealers for repairs, which are free and should take about 30 minutes. Dealers will fix the problem by cutting the plastic shield to let the fluids drain to the pavement, GM said.
Cruzes with worn-out manual transmissions also can leak fluid onto the shields in rare cases, GM said.
The Cruze, introduced in September 2010, has been recalled far more frequently than other new models launched around the same time.
Of eight other new models that went on sale in the second half of 2010, only two have had recalls, the Mini Countryman and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, according to data on file with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The high number of recalls is out of the ordinary for a new model and a sign of quality problems, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group.
Other auto issues
-The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating complaints about engine stalling in some Chrysler 200 midsize sedans. The probe includes about 87,000 of the cars from the 2011 model year that have 3.6-liter V-6 engines. The NHTSA says that it has received 15 complaints that the engines stall without warning while coasting to a stop. The investigation could lead to a recall.
-NHTSA regulators also are investigating complaints that the power steering can fail on 2011 Ford Explorer SUVs. Fifteen drivers have complained that the popular Explorer can suddenly lose its power steering assist, making it harder to steer the SUVs. The problem could affect 83,000 Explorers. No crashes or injuries have been reported to the NHTSA. This investigation also could lead to a recall.