'Who wants a car that might set your house on fire?' What GM's Bolt recall could mean for EV future

Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 25, 2021

(WXYZ) — A costly recall effort is underway for General Motors. The automaker announced that the Chevy Bolt battery can catch fire while charging, saying that all 143,000 Bolt electric vehicles need their battery modules replaced. Every model from 2017 to 2022.

As a result, the company projects a total loss of about $1.8 billion.

The recall is getting mixed reaction among metro Detroiters and questions about the future of electric vehicles arise.


"I feel like there's been recalls as long as there's been cars," said Tom Philips.

Andy Spina says he's in the market for an electric vehicle and was eyeing the Bolt.

"Cars weren't reliable when they started rolling off Henry Ford's line, and they became reliable as the auto industry developed its expertise," said Andrew Spina, who is in the market for an electric vehicle. "I have no doubt that they're going to figure it out and that they're going to do what they can to make it right."

Source:Safety Risks to Emergency Responders from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires in Electric Vehicles | NTSB

Kailyn Zoure, however, is not a fan of electric vehicles in terms of being a constant in her life.

"Nope, nah, nope. I may take it for a day or two to just see what it's about, but to make it my everyday vehicle, absolutely not," said Kailyn Zoure.

Zoure's reaction to the recall is the overall sentiment auto experts expect to reflect current consumer confidence or lack thereof.

"It's bad news for GM. Who wants a car that might set your house on fire? Or who wants a car that you might have to leave outside?" said Erik Gordon, a professor with the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

At the same time, Gordon says it's also bad for GM when it comes to investors who influence the stock price.

"One of the things investors are interested in in car company is how are they doing in EVs and this just doesn't look so good for how GM is doing in EVs," said Gordon.

John McElroy, host of Autoline, tells 7 Action News current investors may not be so worried, but may be in the long run if problems persists.

"The automotive industry has got to get this under control. I mean, here the Biden administration is putting out a goal of achieving 50 percent electric vehicle sales by the end of this decade. Well, that's never going to happen if these battery fires scare people away from electric cars," said McElroy. "Even though cars with gasoline engines catch fire at the rate of about a hundred a day in the United States, you never here anything about it, but when an electric car catches fire it makes headlines around the world, and people are really weary of whether they should buy an electric car or if it's going to burn down their garage."

In a statement to 7 Action News, a General Motors spokesman says, in part:

"The decision to expand the Bolt EV recall reflects our focus and commitment to safety and doing the right thing for our customers. We understand our customer’s frustrations and concerns and we will only begin replacing battery modules in customer vehicles when we are absolutely confident in the safety of LG’s product."

"We remain committed to an all-electric future. We will take our learnings from the Bolt EV recall and carry those learnings into Ultium Cells, our joint venture with LG."