After receiving a slew of complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it’s opening an investigation about battery fires in Toyota RAV4s.
Federal investigators began their query after nearly a dozen owners submitted complaints about their 2013- 2018 model year RAV4 utes caught fire. The problem could affect nearly 1.9 million vehicles. The small SUV is Toyota’s best-selling vehicle.
According to a preliminary report states that the “12V battery B+ terminal shorts to the battery hold down frame which may result in the sudden loss of electrical power, vehicle stalling, and/or a fire originating in the engine compartment.”
The fires traced to the battery
The report notes in addition to the 11 complaints, the agency received “additional Early Warning Report (EWR) data alleging a non-crash thermal event originating in the left side of the engine compartment” of the affected vehicles.
“A majority of thermal events occurred during driving conditions, with four taking place with the ignition off. Drivers experienced stalling prior to the thermal event in half of the instances where the vehicle was in motion. The 12-volt battery was identified as the area of origin in a majority of the incidents reviewed.”
The automaker offered a simple statement about the new probe.
“Toyota is aware that NHTSA has opened this investigation and we are cooperating with the agency,” said Toyota spokesman Ed Hellwig. NHTSA officials declined to comment on the investigation, referring TheDetroitBureau to agency’s website.
Currently, Toyota’s not been asked to issue a recall on the vehicle, and federal officials didn’t offer up how long they believe it will take to complete their investigation. Toyota could voluntarily recall the vehicles to address the problem or the agency could compel them to do so. No fatalities or injuries have been reported related to the problem.
RAV4 important part of Toyota portfolio
The ute is a massive seller in the SUV-crazed U.S. Toyota updated it for the 2019 model year, in what was considered the Japanese automakers biggest new model debut in years. Anything that could cast a negative light on the ute could upset sales, even of the new model.
It was the best-selling ute in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year. So any talk of any type of battery fire “problem” could be problematic for the company. Overall sales of the RAV4 were down 4.6% from 448,071 to 430,387 units.