General Motors is recalling its 2011 and 2012 model-year Chevrolet Cruze compact sedans to fix a problem with the engine shield that could result in a fire, the company said today in a statement.
The recall affects nearly 500,000 Cruzes -- that is, every one built through May 2012 for sale in the U.S. and Canada. Cars built this month are not affected.
GM said it didn't know of any crashes, injuries or deaths related to the issue.
GM said it had identified about 30 fires that could be related.
PDF: Chevy Cruze recall details Q&A
"Improper engine oil change procedures on these vehicles can result in the spilling or dripping of oil," GM said. "If oil contacts hot engine or exhaust system surfaces, and the engine shield, the shield may ignite and burn, resulting in a possible engine compartment fire."
Repairs to the Cruze are expected to take 30 minutes at a Chevrolet service department, and they'll be free, the Detroit-based automaker said.
But the recall is a blemish for GM just two days after it had achieved its best-ever performance on J.D. Power & Associates' Initial Quality Study. Chevrolet narrowly beat the industry average for quality problems in the survey.
"The most important thing for our customers to know is that we are proactively working to assure the Cruze is the safe and durable car they purchased," GM Vice President of Global Quality Alicia Boler-Davis said in a statement. "We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by these actions."
As part of today's announcement, GM also said it would examine some Cruzes to identify a welding problem that could affect up to 249 vehicles. The issue "may affect the fuel tank strap secondary brackets attachment to the floor structure and a sub assembly to the rear floor plan," GM said.
The news comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in March that it was investigating reports of "engulfing" engine fires that destroyed two 2011 Cruzes.
GM sold 19,613 Cruzes in the first five months of 2012, down 13.6% from 2011. Introduced in 2010 and billed as a vital component of GM's small-car lineup, the Cruze is one of the company's most fuel-efficient vehicles and is built at the automaker's plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
IHS Automotive analyst Rebecca Lindland said the recall is "not a complicated fix," but Cruze owners need to pay attention and get their cars repaired. She said she didn't expect the announcement to damage GM's reputation for quality.
"Ever since the Toyota debacle, there's been a lot of drama that surrounds a recall notice. But it's really overblown," she said. "It's never a desirable action for any manufacturer to take, but it shouldn't put them off of their stride."
Lindland said it was difficult to estimate how much the recall would cost GM. GM spokesman Alan Adler said no extra parts are required for the main recall.
The main recall affects 413,148 vehicles sold in the U.S., 61,299 sold in Canada and 701 sold in Israel. Cruzes sold in other countries were designed differently.
GM plans to notify its dealers about the recalls today, and letters will be sent to owners July 11, GM product investigations and safety regulations director M. Carmen Benavides told NHTSA in a letter.
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