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The Felicity Ace cargo ship, carrying more than 4,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group, caught fire last month. Successful rescue efforts brought the 22-person crew to safety as teams worked to put out the fires aboard the massive ship. We don’t yet know what caused the fires, and it’s possible we won’t know for quite some time. Although the cause might not have been EV models aboard, the rescue teams required special equipment to put the fires out once these vehicles caught fire.

Speculation of spontaneous combustion of the battery cells

Felicity Ace on Fire carrying 4,000 vehicles from the Volkswagen Group
Felicity Ace on Fire carrying 4,000 Volkswagen Group models | Marine Insight

Until we know more about the cause of the fires, we won’t understand more about how to avoid this type of accident in the future. Reuters reported the possibility of the electric vehicles from Volkswagen causing the fires. This suggestion came from captain Joao Mendes Cabecas of the port of Hortas. Whether these batteries caused the fires or made it more difficult to put out, they added to the fire control crew’s challenges. Cabecas went on to say, “The ship is burning from one end to the other with everything on fire about five meters above the waterline.”

Where was the Felicity Ace going?

The Felicity Ace was en route to the United States with a load of vehicles from four Volkswagen Group brands. This includes models from Porsche, Bentley, Volkswagen, and Audi. This ship left Germany on its way to our shores. It carried vehicles for various customers at dealerships around the country. Some customers knew their cars were aboard the ship. Now, they have to wait for the next round of vehicles to come from these VW brands.

Adding insult to injury

Felicity Ace Fire Profile
Felicity Ace Fire Profile | Car and Driver

The loss of the more than 4,000 vehicles aboard the Felicity Ace is a serious blow to customers waiting on their cars. Dealers are scrambling to contact customers. Communication is key to instilling confidence with customers waiting for their vehicle to arrive on the next ship out of Germany. This added another problem in a world where we already have a massive semiconductor shortage slowing down vehicle production.

Will Volkswagen Group absorb the loss?

Yes, VW Group can absorb the loss of 4,000 vehicles compared to more than 9 million models globally last year. The vessel and its cargo are insured, which covers Volkswagen Group in the event of a loss such as this.

Is it safe to use ships like the Felicity Ace to transport cars?

Even though this ship made worldwide news when it caught fire southwest of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, this is still the safest way to transport vehicles across the ocean. Many automakers have assembly and production facilities closer to where their models sell. This cuts down on transportation needs but isn’t feasible for all makes and models. Car carriers report problems one out of every 150 times among shipping accidents. Most of the time, no incident report is needed at all. Since 2000, eight car carriers have been lost around the world, including the Felicity Ace.

What has happened to the Felicity Ace and the Volkswagen Group vehicles?

Unfortunately, the ship sank after controlling the fire and beginning recovery tow efforts. As reported by The Washington Post, the ship was about 250 miles off a Portuguese archipelago. The area where the ship sank is about 9,842 feet deep, which will make salvage, investigation, and recovery efforts nearly impossible.


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