General Motors is taking a more direct role with South Korea's LG Corp., its longtime electric vehicle partner, in tracking down and fixing problems linked to battery fires in Chevrolet Bolts that threaten the strategic plans of both companies.
At an investor conference on Friday, GM CFO Paul Jacobson said LG is working with GM engineers to "clean up the manufacturing process" at LG battery plants and implement some "GM quality metrics."
Battery plants in South Korea and Michigan operated by LG Energy Solution have been identified by GM as the source of defects behind a rash of battery-related fires in the Bolt that have triggered three recalls and $1.8 billion (all figures in USD) in warranty set-asides by GM since last November -- recalls for which GM still has not implemented a hardware fix.
LGES and sister company LG Electronics on Friday reiterated their "close relationship" with GM and said the three companies are "actively cooperating to come up with a final recall plan" to "wisely resolve" battery issues in more than 140,000 Bolts -- the entire production run since late 2016.
“Experts from GM and LG continue to work around the clock on the issues," GM spokesman Dan Flores said on Thursday. "We are determined to do the right thing for our customers and resolve the problem once and for all. Once we are confident LG can provide us with good battery modules, we will begin repairs as quickly as we can.”
GM has said early Bolt models will have their entire battery pack replaced, while newer models will have only defective modules within the pack replaced. Those new parts may not be available until after November.
In the meantime, Bolt owners and prospective EV buyers have unleashed a torrent of complaints and concerns on social media aimed at both GM and LG. It is unclear how much permanent damage either company may sustain from the battery fires.
"Not even Tesla has been slowed by fires," said Tyson Jominy, JD Power vice president of automotive data & analytics. "I don’t expect this to slow down the EV transition much."
With resolution of the costly recall debacle still up in the air, relations between GM and LG have soured, people familiar with the situation said. The partners are stuck in what one Korean analyst deemed a "show window marriage," one in which a divorce is unlikely as few immediate alternatives are available.
For now, GM's Michigan factory that assembles the Bolt is shut down and its 1,000 workers idled until late September.