Chevrolet's Bolt EV battery fire recall has cost GM nearly $1 billion

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The ongoing recall of the Chevy Bolt EV hit GM's earnings prospects to the tune of approximately $800 million, the company said when it announced its second-quarter financial results. The car has been recalled twice now due to a potential battery fire issue, and customers are still being urged to carefully monitor their cars' state of charge and park them outside when possible.

GM's total losses due to ongoing recalls company-wide was estimated at $1.3 billion. In that context, addressing battery fires in the Bolt accounts for more than 60% of GM's current recall-related costs. CEO Mary defended the expenditure, and noted that the company's new Ultium battery architecture is unaffected by the issue in question with the Bolt. It also has no impact on the updated 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV.

"We're always going to do the right thing for our customers," Barra told Bloomberg Markets and Finance during an interview Wednesday. "We prioritize their safety and so it was the right thing to do."

Chevrolet's original solution to the problem turned out to be less permanent than hoped. After it was completed, GM issued a second recall for 69,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs worldwide (nearly 51,000 of those in the United States) in July after reports of two new fires. GM has been advising owners to stick to a 90% state of charge limitation that the company first instructed owners to use in November before the initial fix had been completed.

The Bolt EVs were recalled last November for fire risks and at least one of the two new fires was in a vehicle that already had the software update released as part of the recall. Experts from GM and battery supplier LG Chem said they have identified the simultaneous presence of two rare manufacturing defects in the same battery cell as the root cause of battery fires in certain Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

The Chevrolet Bolt vehicles being recalled again are from the same batch first recalled for the potential of an unattended fire in the high-voltage battery pack underneath the backseat’s bottom cushion. Fires were initially reported in 2017, 2018, and 2019 models, and the three EVs were left with a similar burn pattern on or around the rear seats. After investigating, NHTSA published a bulletin explaining that the fires seemingly started in the Bolt's battery compartment and spread to the cabin. In cooperation with GM, NHTSA eliminated outside factors, such as charging equipment. The two were able to confirm five total incidents of fire that occurred in batteries near a maximum state of charge, and the two incidents reported in July bring the total number of known fires to at least seven.

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