Subaru Recalls 271,000 SUVs for Fire Risk

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Subaru has launched a voluntary vehicle recall of about 271,000 Ascent SUVs because of a reported fire risk.

According to a Fox Business news report, Subaru issued the recall in response to certain Ascent SUVs potentially having an “improperly fastened” ground bolt for their positive temperature coefficient (PTC) heaters. Documents submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that when heaters with improperly fastened bolts are operating, their ground terminals could experience excessive heat, potentially leading to melting and an increased risk of a fire.

Details of the Subaru Fire Risk Recall

Two fires have been reported in connection to the issue, NHTSA’s release states. The automaker has said it is not aware of any crashes, injuries, or fatalities as a result of this vehicle defect. More than 271,000 SUVs covered in the recall are select 2019-2022 Ascent models. Subaru is urging those who own these vehicles to park them outside, leaving plenty of distance from buildings until the cars can be repaired.

Owners should not leave vehicles that have not been repaired unattended, the automaker and NHTSA said. Subaru is also asking owners to put the ignition in the “off” position and not drive the SUV if there is a burning smell or smoke from near the dashboard or foot well on the driver’s side. They should also immediately contact Subaru’s roadside assistance or the nearest Subaru dealer for help, the safety report states.

For all the vehicles affected by the Subaru fire risk recall, Subaru dealers will replace the PTC heater ground bolts and, if necessary, replace the ground wire and connector holder. Subaru will also provide reimbursement to owners for repairs according to the general plan submitted in May 2022. Dealers received notification of the recall by Dec. 12, while owners will be informed in early February.

What is a Safety-Related Defect?

The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”

A defect includes “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.” Generally, a safety defect is defined as a problem that exists in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment that poses an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety and may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture. The Subaru fire risk is a prime example of such a defect.

How Does NHTSA Conduct an Investigation?

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation process consists of four parts:

  • Screening: This is a preliminary review of consumer complaints and other information related to the alleged defects to determine whether an investigation needs to be opened.
  • Petition analysis: This refers to an analysis of any petitions calling for defect investigations and/or reviews of safety-related recalls.
  • Investigation: This part of the process involves the actual investigation into the alleged safety defects.
  • Recall management: The Recall Management Division or RMD maintains the administrative records for all safety recalls and monitors these recalls to ensure that the scope is appropriate and that the recall completion rate and remedy are appropriate.

NHTSA’s monitoring of recall performance may lead to the opening of a recall investigation if the facts appear to indicate a problem with the recall adequacy or execution. Such an investigation could result in expanding the scope of previously announced recalls or in the modification of recall remedies to ensure their adequacy.

Understanding Vehicle Recalls

A vehicle recall happens when an automaker or NHTSA determines that there is a safety-related defect in the vehicle or the equipment. If this happens, the automaker will notify vehicle owners. Automakers are required to repair recalled vehicles at no cost to consumers under federal law.

If you are wondering whether your vehicle has been recalled, visit safercar.gov and use the search tool to look up recalls specific to your vehicle. You may also wish to sign up for alerts and get timely recall updates via email by subscribing to the NHTSA’s recall notification service. You could also download the SaferCar app for Apple or Android devices.

If your vehicle has been recalled, you should receive a recall letter from the automaker with a description of the defect, the potential risks and warning signs, how the problem will be fixed by the automaker, and instructions as to what you need to do next. Take this letter when you go to the dealership. If you have received a vehicle recall notice, you need to take action. Try to get your vehicle recalled as soon as possible. Call your local, authorized dealer to set up an appointment.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a vehicle defect, such as the Subaru fire risk, you may be able to seek compensation. Victims may be able to claim compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. An experienced lawyer dealing with auto defects in California will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.

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