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NHTSA expands Chevy Cruze engine fire investigation to 370,000

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that they have expanded the investigation of the Chevrolet Cruze to a second model year, which now encompasses some 370,000 vehicles in the US.

The NHTSA launched a preliminary investigation into the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze in April after receiving a pair of complaints that the compact sedan just burst into flames while driving on the highway. Initially, this investigation only pertained to the 2011 model year Cruze sedans, which would “only” reach around 177,000 vehicles. However, the feds have announced that the 2012 Chevy Cruze is also being included in this investigation and with that statement the scope of the investigation has more than doubled – now including over 370,000 vehicles.

There have been no accidents, injuries or deaths stemming from the issue which has caused the investigation into the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Cruze but based on the two complaints; it is hard to question the legitimacy of the probe. In both cases, the complainants were traveling at speed when smoke began pouring from under the hood. Both drivers stopped to investigate and within minutes the cars were engulfed in flames. The result was both of the 2011 Chevy Cruze sedans being completely destroyed while luckily, no one was injured.

The NHTSA adding the 2012 model year Chevy Cruze sedan to this preliminary investigation makes just as much sense as the launch of the investigation itself. The two model year sedans are identical in nearly every way so if there is a design, manufacturing or engineering issue that is causing this fire with the 2011 model year Cruze – it will almost certainly affect the 2012 model year vehicles as well. Should the feds find something to continue with this investigation, the next step will be an engineering analysis and after that (again, should there be a problem found), the vehicles could be subject to a recall.

While a recall of the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Cruze sedans could be the end result of this NHTSA engine bay fire investigation, with only those two incidents reported thus far out of over 370,000…it seems to be a pretty isolated event. I have had the pleasure of logging a few thousand miles in the Chevrolet Cruze without a single issue but again, that is just one of a great many vehicles built for the 2011 and 2012 model years.

Should the NHTSA find something concerning enough to issue a recall, or should more engine bay fires crop up in the hands of consumers, it will be interesting to see if the Buick Verano will be included in the ongoing investigation or recall. The Verano is mechanically identical to the Cruze but depending on what the cause of the fire is found to be – the Buick sedan might be safe from further action.

Source: Reuters