My wife was driving my daughter home from school when part of the inside of the car burst into flames. Luckily, it was the back seat, and they were sitting in the front.
The mechanic found the problem was the rear defogger/antenna module, which is housed behind a plastic panel by the rear passenger seat. The wires are not secured, and the mechanic thinks the seat belt may have, over time, rubbed the insulation off, causing a short. This module does not have a fuse, so there was nothing to stop it from overheating and burning. When my mechanic was looking for a replacement panel at a local junk yard, he found, in every Alero he looked in, the wires on this module were at least partially melted.
After some research, I also found other Alero owners who have had the same issue. This appears to be a problem with Aleros from 1999 on.
If you own an Alero and start to smell something you think may be melting plastic, check on it right away!
From the Feb. 8-14, 2012, issue