GM says the fires happen when fluids drip onto a plastic shield below the engine and ignite. GM knows of 30 fires caused by the problem. No injuries have been reported.
Reports online put the number of cars being recalled at more than 475,000.
Dealers will cut the shield to let the fluid drain to the pavement. GM says most of the fires were caused by spills during oil changes that weren't cleaned properly. Cruzes with worn-out manual transmissions also can leak fluid.
The recall covers cars built from September of 2010 through May of 2012.
The Cruze is key because it has improved GM's small-car sales. The company has a history of poor-performing compacts.