In late 2022, Subaru of America, Inc. issued a voluntary recall on certain model-year Subaru Ascent SUVs due to a fire risk involving the vehicle’s electrical system. While no crashes or injuries were reported at the time of the recall, the company directed vehicle owners to visit their nearest certified Subaru dealership to have the issue corrected. They also recommended that drivers avoid parking in carports, garages, or nearby structures.
What Was the Reason for the Subaru Electrical System Recall?
Subaru, a Japanese auto manufacturing company, recalled 271,694 Subaru Ascent SUVs in December 2022 over concerns that the ground bolts used to secure the ground terminal to the Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) were improperly secured. As a result, the ground terminal may overheat and melt surrounding vehicle components, increasing the risk of a vehicle or structure fire.
The company first learned of a potential issue with the Ascent in early 2020 when a consumer reported smoke coming from their vehicle’s cabin. In September 2021, Subaru received the first of two vehicle fire damage reports. It wasn’t until a second vehicle was damaged by fire in 2022 that Subaru investigated the issue and notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its intention to publish a voluntary recall. At that time, no crashes or injuries had been reported due to the improperly secured bolts.
Subaru later announced that they believed the problem stemmed from a change in production tools. Prior to the complaints, Subaru switched from a battery tool to an air tool, which did not provide the torque necessary to secure the bolts in question. Following the recall, the manufacturer said they moved to an updated tightening tool to prevent future incomplete tightening issues.
What Can Vehicle Owners Do?
Ascent owners were advised to check the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) on their SUVs on Subaru’s recall website to find out if the recall affected their vehicle. The manufacturer sent those impacted consumers a mailed notice of recall in February 2023.
Drivers with a recalled Ascent were advised to park their Subarus outside and away from structures such as houses, garages, and carports and to avoid leaving their vehicles unattended while the engine was running until the appropriate repairs could be made. Owners who see or smell smoke coming from their vehicle’s dash or driver’s footwell area should immediately stop the vehicle and turn the ignition to the off position.
After shutting off the smoking vehicle, drivers should contact Subaru’s Roadside Assistance program or their nearest Subaru retailer for help. They should not attempt to operate the vehicle until repairs have been made to fix the improperly fastened bolts.
To repair the issue, take your vehicle to a certified Subaru dealership to have the PTC heater ground bolts replaced. In some cases, the dealership may also need to replace the ground wire and connector holder on your vehicle. Subaru estimated that 0.6% of recalled vehicles would require ground and connector replacements. All repairs are free of charge to the vehicle owner.
Has Subaru Had Previous Issues With Recalls?
In total, 11 reports have now been made in the United States involving improperly fastened ground bolts in the Subaru Ascent’s electrical system, particularly with the wiring in the interior dashboard.
This is not the first time Subaru has faced issues surrounding an electrical system defect in its products. A previous class action lawsuit was filed against the company for an electrical system defect that prematurely drained vehicle batteries. Some drivers reported being stranded when their vehicles refused to start.
In that case, the following products were at the center of the lawsuit:
- 2015-2020 Subaru Outback SUVs
- 2015-2020 Subaru Forester SUVs
- 2015-2020 Subaru Legacy Cars
- 2015-2020 Subaru WRX Sports Cars
- 2019-2020 Subaru Ascent SUVs
Subaru was ordered to reimburse consumers for battery diagnosis and replacement, roadside assistance expenses, and other related costs.
How Can a Vehicle Recall Affect Liability for Accidents or Injuries?
The main concerns with the most recent Subaru electrical system recall involve the risk of a vehicle fire, crash, or structure fire, which could lead to injuries or death. There is also the risk that consumers could be left stranded in unsafe situations while they wait for roadside assistance to help. Although there have been no reports of crashes or injuries since the Subaru recall, some drivers may have experienced issues before they became aware of the manufacturer’s warnings.
For most insurance claims, the vehicle or homeowner’s insurance provider is responsible for covering the costs of damages to cars and structures. If a motor vehicle accident occurs, the at-fault driver’s insurance company generally pays.
When a faulty product is to blame for losing property or injuries, the responsible party can be more difficult to identify. Product liability lawsuits hold companies accountable for the safe and reliable use of their merchandise when used as intended. If a manufacturer markets a product that turns out to be defective, and that defect leads to consumer harm, the company can be held legally liable for damages it caused.
However, suppose it’s discovered that the product’s owner was aware of an open recall for their vehicle and failed to act by not having the defective parts repaired or replaced. In that case, the liability once again falls on the consumer. The courts may perceive their actions or lack of action as negligence. That’s why it’s important to respond to recall notices promptly when you receive them by following through on any work that needs to be done.
What Actions Should Consumers Who Have Been Injured Take?
If you believe that you or a family member was harmed by the Subaru electrical system recall, contact a personal injury attorney. These lawyers specialize in cases where liability may be in question and can help you determine who is responsible for your injuries or property damage. The only way to ensure that companies and corporations create products with the public’s safety in mind is to hold them accountable when they fail.