Italian supercar manufacturer Ferrari announced Wednesday it had recalled all versions of its model 458 Italia sports car produced before July 2010 after five of them caught fire due to a design flaw.
“Our dealers are going to call clients and tell them to bring back their cars so that the necessary modifications can be carried out,” a spokesman told AFP. The recall involves 1,248 vehicles worldwide, the official said.
Ferrari last week opened an enquiry after four of its vehicles caught fire spontaneously in California, China, France and Switzerland. A flaw in the wheel arch on the rear of the £170,000 supercar is fitted with a special glue which is prone to melting, the spokesman said.
The fault brings the lining of the wheel-arch into contact with the hot exhaust pipe causing both the lining and the adhesive to heat up and ignite. As result of the fire the superheated aluminium body will subsequently melt.
Ferrari spokesman Edward Rowe said: “There is a heat shield and wheel-arch housing assembly which in cases of very high ambient temperatures and operating temperatures that can deform, which brings it into too close a contact with the exhaust system and the adhesive that’s used in it can then smoke and in very extreme occasions ignite.”
Several reports claim Ferrari had sent its engineers to investigate what the company labelled as “thermal incidents”, and then proceeded to ask the owners of more than 1200 examples of the supercar to bring their vehicles into their local workshop to have the problem fixed.
So far five Ferrari 458 Italias have burst into flames. A sixth which went up in flames in a warehouse blaze is not thought to be linked to the fault with the wheel arch. Another five cars were destroyed as a result of crashes or incident which Ferrari says were unrelated to the flaw which prompted the recall.
Ferrari sells the 458 for £170,000 but, thanks to its two-year waiting list, used models are sold at a £50,000 premium. Owners include DJ Chris Evans and rock legend Eric Clapton.
Ferrari is already flying out replacement parts and expects to have all the cars repaired and back on the road by the end of next week. The repair involves replacing the heat shield assembly and fixing it only with rivets, not adhesive “so the possibility of deformation is removed”.
Ferrari has written to the owners of all 1,248 cars built this year offering to fix them free of charge in a recall affecting £212million worth of vehicles. Technicians will replace the glued sections of the heat-shield with metal rivets free of charge in order to make the vehicle safe.
The company is even offering to replace, free of charge, cars whose owners can prove their vehicle was destroyed by the fault. Ferrari said the fire risk came when there was a combination of ‘a warm day, a warm road and a very hot car.’
Several photographs of the half-a-million-dollar 458 Italia have been posted on website www.WreckedExotics.com showing the car either burnt out or with flames shooting from the rear of the car in a number of locations around the globe, including China, Switzerland, France and the US. Images of the fiery Ferraris can be found here.
The first incident was reported in July when a Parisian driver noticed one of his rear panels was on fire. A few days later, another 458 Italia caught fire when driving up a mountain pass in Switzerland.
According to Wreckedexotics there have reportedly been nine 458 Italias that have caught fire in the past 90 days, although some Ferrari sources suggest there have only been five incidents linked to the fault.
The 458 was only launched in the Spring to high acclaim from the motoring world. BBC Top Gear voted it car of the year with Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson describing it as ‘one of the all-time greats’. The supercar is powered by a 4.5-litre V8 producing 419kW of power, and has a top speed of 325km/h.
The Ferrari spokesman added: “Obviously, the work will be carried out free of charge and those customers whose car has been destroyed as a direct result of the fault will be offered a free vehicle as soon as possible at no cost to them.” [via Daily Telegraph (UK) and BBC and DailyMail (UK)]