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 of 2010 through May of 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, General Motors 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.
In addition, 61,000 of the recalled Cruzes are covered under another recall. GM says 249 of them have welds missing from a bracket that holds the tanks. Federal safety officials say the tanks could come lose in a crash, possibly leaking and causing fires. Dealers will secure brackets with fasteners. The fuel tank recall was the outgrowth of GM's internal safety testing, Adler said.
The Cruze, introduced in September of 2010, has been recalled far more frequently than other new models launched around the same time.
A base model Cruze sedan starts at $17,595 including shipping. It seats five and gets an estimated 38 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with a 1.4-liter engine and automatic transmission.
The Cruze has done well in a market where GM struggled for years. It was the top-selling compact in the U.S. from May through September last year.
But sales have fallen as more Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics became available. Both were scarce after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan hobbled production.
The recall involves cars built at GM's Lordstown, Ohio, factory. They were sold in the U.S., Canada and Israel.
In another development, federal safety regulators 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which announced the probe on its website Friday.
The agency also 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 agency said it has received 15 complaints that the engines stall without warning while coasting to a stop.