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by Tim Beissmann

General Motors is recalling around 1.5 million passenger cars, trucks and SUVs around the world to remove a windshield-wiper fluid heating system that can overheat and cause a fire.

Many of the affected vehicles were recalled in 2008 to fix a similar problem with the same component, but the latest reports of fires in some previously repaired vehicles has prompted GM to remove the system altogether.

Included in the recall is the 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse, 2008-2009 Buick Enclave and Cadillac CTS, 2007-2009 Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL, Saturn Outlook, and the 2006-2009 Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS and Hummer H2.

GM executive director of safety, Jeff Boyer, said he knew of five fires in the vehicles but confirmed that no injuries or accidents had been reported as a result of the malfunctions.

“While our analysis shows the number of incidents is very small compared with the number of vehicles on the road, we want our customers to have complete peace of mind,” Mr Boyer said.

Of the 1.5 million vehicles recalled by GM, almost 1.4 million were sold in the US.

Holden corporate communications manager, Emma Watts, confirmed that none of the remaining 100,000 vehicles were sold in Australia.

“There are no Holden vehicles at all involved in the recall,” Ms Watts said.

Canada and Mexico are believed to contain most of the non-US sold vehicles.

The washer fluid heating system was manufactured by Microheat Inc, a Detroit based company that was crippled by the first round of recalls in August 2008 when 900,000 GM vehicles had a short circuit on the unit’s circuit board repaired.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy soon after and no longer manufactures the “HotShot” systems, making repairing or replacing the units impossible for GM.

As a result, GM plans to disable the systems and reimburse GM owners and leasers $US100 ($122) for the loss of the feature.

Reimbursing customers will cost GM up to $US150 million ($183 million), and the additional cost of the recall services themselves could take the total cost of the operation beyond $US200 million ($243 million).

GM plans to contact all owners by the end of the month but has encouraged owners of the affected vehicles to contact their dealer to have the system removed and the washer fluid hoses redirected.

(with AP)




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