A fire risk on early-model Smart Fortwo microcars has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open an investigation, according to agency filings.
Between 2015 and October 2016, eight owners of 2008 and 2009 Fortwo microcars reported engine fires—three of which occurred in October and November. No injuries were reported. Six owners reported they smelled smoke, saw warning lights on the dash, or saw flames coming from the rear where the three-cylinder engine is mounted under the cargo hold. Two fires occurred when the car was stopped, including one in Oregon where the owner parked the car, stepped inside a friend’s house, and was alerted by a neighbor that his car was erupting in flames, the report said. Most of the reports cited fires that completely engulfed the car and declared them a total loss.
NHTSA is currently conducting a preliminary evaluation, after which it can upgrade the case to an engineering analysis and request more data from Mercedes-Benz. At this point, it is unclear what has caused the fires, if there are in fact manufacturer-caused defects, and if so, what other models may be affected.