General Motors has attracted praise in the US for the way it has handled the recall announced last night of 1.5m 2007-2009 model cars, trucks and crossovers to disable a heated washer fluid system module that could pose a fire risk.

In an unusual move, GM said it would make a voluntary payment of $100 to the owner or lessee of each vehicle “because the feature will be disabled”.

There are no known injuries or crashes related to the condition, according to the automaker.

“GM’s critics – and there are many – will cite this as just one more reason GM didn’t deserve to be resuscitated using federal funds. But it can also be spun as a sign that the company is on the mend,” Marketwatch said in an online ‘First Take’ article.

“After all, this is a legacy problem. These faulty fluid heaters date back to the days before bankruptcy. The first fix, in 2008, didn’t work and the company that supplied the units, Microheat, went out of business after that first recall.

“Rather than try another patch, GM has decided to make a clean break. It’s going to remove the units completely and give owners $100 compensation for the loss of this flawed feature. Sounds like a reasonable offer – annoying, but reasonable.

“GM is taking preemptive action, which is lot better than pretending nothing’s wrong until a tragedy proves the opposite.”

“It’s hard not to view GM’s recall in light of Toyota Motor’s sticky accelerator crisis, where it took a string of deaths and volumes of consumer complaints to finally break through a wall of denials, costing Toyota billions of dollars in a rear guard effort to make things right.”

GM safety chief Jeff Boyer said: “While our analysis shows the number of incidents is very small compared with the number of vehicles on the road, we want our customers to have complete peace of mind.”

Dealers will remove the heated washer fluid module and reroute washer fluid hoses.  Customers will begin receiving recall letters this month, but can contact a dealer any time to arrange to have the system removed.

“This was a unique technology available from only one supplier, and that supplier has stopped manufacturing, which left no opportunity to collaborate on an improved design,” Boyer said. “We want to be clear that the voluntary payment to customers is for the loss of the feature, not the recall.”

Models included in the recall are the 2006-2009 model year Buick Lucerne; Cadillac DTS; Hummer H2; 2008-2009 model year Buick Enclave; Cadillac CTS; 2007-2009 model year Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL; Saturn Outlook; and 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse.

Most of the vehicles, 1,365,070, are in the United States but there are also 98,794 affected vehicles in Canada; 26,228 in Mexico, and 38,093 exports.

The heated washer fluid system was recalled in August 2008 because a short circuit on the printed circuit board could overheat the control-circuit ground wire. Dealers at the time installed an in-line fuse in the heated washer module wiring.

The government closed its initial investigation after the 2008 recall. GM said it continued to monitor the performance of the heated washer fluid module in the field and continued communications with NHTSA. In June 2009, a new and second failure mode was identified by GM with the first confirmed report consisting of smoke only. Since then, the automaker has been made aware of five fires.