GM Replacing 22,500 Hybrid Battery Packs...When It Gets Enough
September 27, 2010
by Justin Hyde
General Motors has to replace the battery packs in every Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura and Saturn Vue hybrid sold since 2007, some 22,500 U.S. vehicles. The problem? It doesn't have enough packs to fix what's broken.
GM has sold these "mild hybrid" models since 2007 with the passion of steamed broccoli. Basically a big alternator and a small battery pack, the mild hybrid systems cost more than regular models yet offered far skimpier fuel savings than full hybrids from Toyota and Ford. Even with federal tax credits, customers faced a long haul to break even on fuel savings alone. The Aura and Vue died with Saturn, and GM put the Malibu Hybrid on hiatus, but spread a few around to fleets, like New York taxicabs.
In July, GM told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the nickel-metal hydride packs in those hybrids could crack, leaking battery electrolyte and cutting their power. A similar problem at supplier Cobasys forced a GM recall back in 2008. Because the batteries are essential to the vehicle's EPA fuel economy ratings and emissions system, GM has to replace all of them regardless of whether the packs are leaking yet.
Today, GM sent the above note to dealers that a tipster shared with Jalopnik, announcing it was pausing the recall because "a shortage of replacement batteries is at a critical level and will probably not improve in the foreseeable future." Letters to customers announcing the recall have been halted for now.
For owners whose batteries have failed, GM estimates it has a backlog of 4 1/2 weeks worth of claims waiting to be processed, and only a six-week supply of batteries to fill orders once processed.