GM recalls 1.5 million vehicles over fire risk

General Motors recalled more than 1.5 million vehicles Tuesday over fears an electrical fault could cause them to catch fire, the latest in a string of safety flaws to hit the troubled auto sector.

The problem - linked to the vehicles' windshield wiper fluid system - affects at least 18 models ranging from Chevrolet trucks to Cadillac sedans, documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed.

GM's Buick, Hummer and GMC brands are also affected, with high-end SUVs and pick-up trucks most badly hit.

Over 1.36 million of the recalled vehicles were sold in the United States. Nearly 100,000 were sold in Canada, some 26,228 in Mexico and 38,093 elsewhere.

In a letter to customers and US watchdogs, GM - which received a massive government bailout to stay afloat - said many of the models had already been involved in a 2008 recall linked to possible electrical shorting.

"However, there have been new reports of thermal incidents," GM said.

The Detroit, Michigan based firm said the new incidents resulted from a flaw in fluid systems' heat insulation.

The incidents ranged from "minor distortion to considerable melting of the plastic around the... fluid chamber."

"In rare circumstances, it is possible for the heated (windshield) washer module to ignite." At least four fires have occurred.

GM first notified the US government of potential problems in September 2009, but could affect models dating back to 2006.

In a letter to customers, GM said it would fix the problem "at no charge" and give a "satisfaction payment" of 100 dollars from dealers, spelling a potential payout of more than 150 million dollars for the firm.

The recall is a body-blow to the firm, which is fighting to escape from the shadow of a high-profile bankruptcy.

GM entered a government-backed reorganization on June 1, 2009, with liabilities of 172.8 billion dollars.

The company emerged from bankruptcy on July 10 with 48.4 billion dollars in debt.

In May, the firm saw a quarterly profit for the first time in three years on the back of a jump in sales and cost-cutting measures.

The carmaker said that sales of four brands it retained following restructuring - Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac - rose 31.8 percent from May last year.

Tuesday's announcement was just the latest in a raft of recalls from the world's top vehicle manufacturers.

On Monday Chrysler recalled almost 600,000 vehicles across four models, fearing the risk of fire, brake failure and sticking accelerator pedals.

Earlier in the Month, Ford and Mazda recalled more than 230,000 vehicles made by their China joint venture to fix a software problem blamed for bouts of engine failure.

Meanwhile at least 89 deaths in the United States have been linked to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, a flaw which prompted the recall of 10 million vehicles worldwide since late last year.

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