General Motors faces at least two more proposed class action lawsuits that allege the lithium ion batteries found in 2017-2019 model year Chevrolet Bolt vehicles can spontaneously catch fire when charged to full or near full capacity.
The lawsuits, filed on December 11 in Michigan federal court, claim the defect allegedly plaguing the Bolt’s 60 kWh 350 V lithium ion batteries poses an unreasonable safety risk to drivers, passengers and any property near which an affected vehicle might be parked. According to the suits, the defect poses a fire risk even when a Chevy Bolt is off, parked and not receiving a charge.
According to the complaints, drivers have been shortchanged in that GM’s interim fix for the defect—reprogramming the vehicles to limit their batteries’ full charge capacity to 90 percent of their actual charging capacity—has robbed them of the advertised driving range while necessitating that affected vehicles be charged more frequently.
General Motors issued on November 13, 2020 a recall of more than 50,000 Chevy Bolts, citing a fire risk with the cars’ batteries. According to the lawsuits, however, GM sold and leased Chevy Bolts despite “what it knew or should have known” about the fire risk, and continued to sell the vehicles without launching an investigation into the problem even after adverse event reports started piling up:
“For more than a year after the first fire, GM operated with a cynical ‘business-as-usual’ attitude, even going so far as to reiterate to Class Members that they could and should charge their vehicles to 100%, before opening a formal investigation into the fires in August 2020. After opening this investigation, it took months for GM to communicate to Plaintiffs and Class Members that the danger from the Class Vehicles was so high that the Vehicles should be parked outside.”
In recall documents, GM acknowledged that a certain number of Bolts equipped with high-voltage fuel cells made at LG Chem’s Ochang, Korea facility posed a significant safety hazard. Both lawsuits say GM’s recall is an insufficient remedy given the automaker’s software updates have drastically cut the Bolt’s driving range.
To date, GM has failed to provide an adequate fix for the battery defect that does not diminish the cars’ batteries or lower their driving range below drivers’ expectations and the automaker’s own claims as to the vehicles’ range, the suits say. The lawsuits argue buyers and lessees have suffered harm in that they paid money for the Chevy Bolt in part due to GM’s material claims of the vehicle’s battery capacity and single-charge travel range.
“GM actively concealed and/or failed to notify Bolt purchasers of the existence and nature of the defect and of the safety hazard created by the defect,” one lawsuit alleges, summarizing that GM has “failed to diagnose the cause of the defect; it has not offered to replace the defective battery pack to its customers; and it has not provided assurances to owners, present or future, that their vehicles’ battery capacity will be fully restored, to include the full driving range of their vehicles.”
Both lawsuits can be found below.
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