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AG: Expand GM SUV recall

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MADISON - Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager announced today she has urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to exhort General Motors Corporation (GMC) to expand its recall of SUVs nationwide, so all owners of suspect vehicles can be notified of this problem and the necessary repairs can be made.

General Motors Corp. announced in August it was recalling about 800,000 sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks in 14 northern states. It said corrosion was affecting the antilock brake system, resulting in about 200 low-speed crashes.

Wisconsin consumers who own the faulty SUVs are not included in the recall.

Lautenschlager further encouraged the NHTSA to be proactive in advocating that recalls of this nature be national in scope.

“When auto manufacturers first began to recall defective motor vehicles, those recalls were national in scope,” Lautenschlager said. “In recent years, however, auto manufacturers have issued regional and even local recalls. Unfortunately, these regional recalls exclude many defective vehicles that should otherwise be eligible for recall repairs.”

A copy of Lautenschlager’s letter to Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and to Kathleen DeMeter, Director of NHTSA, is attached.

Lautenschlager said a recent example of this inconsistent decision-making is General Motors’ 14-state recall of 1999 through 2002 and possibly some 2003 models of the Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Tahoe, and the GMC Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL. These SUV’s have experienced significant braking problems. The antilock braking systems and brake sensors of these SUV’s have failed, apparently due to a design defect combined with the introduction of winter road salt, snow and water.

“I am troubled and disappointed that General Motors has issued this recall for some customers, but denied it for all the other customers, including those in Wisconsin who purchased and own these particular Chevrolet and GMC SUV’s,” Lautenschlager wrote. “It’s unfathomable that Wisconsin would be left out of a recall in northern, snow belt states.”

Lautenschlager wrote:

“General Motors Corp., has limited its recall to 14 states with the apparent excuse that they had more reports about braking problems from owners in those 14 northern states. Why were there more reports in those 14 states? It appears that this problem was first reported in Canada, where winter driving conditions are generally more prominent. Crashes and brake failures occurred, complaints were filed, and a recall was initiated by General Motors - Canada. That prompted publicity in the Canadian media. Media reports were picked up across the border into New York State, spawning more publicity. The New York media reports were seen in surrounding states. Hence, more complaints were undoubtedly reported in those 14 states where earlier publicity generated more consumer reporting. That, however, does not mean that the other states’ GMC SUV owners have not experienced similar brake problems as well, or that they could not reasonably be expected to do so.”

Lautenschlager said that the NHTSA is currently monitoring data about this particular GMC SUV recall. She enclosed similar consumer complaints from Wisconsin owners of these SUV’s in her letter to Mineta and DeMeter. For example, Kyle DeVries of Waupun filed the following complaint regarding his 2000 Chevrolet Silverado:

“In December of 2000 I was approaching a Subway sandwich shop when the brakes failed. I hit the building and caused $1,400 damage to my truck and $892 to the building. After the accident the brakes worked fine again. The truck was taken to Heather Chevrolet and they found nothing. At that time GM refused any liability for this. In early May my girlfriend went through an intersection and the brakes worked again after that. We brought the truck to Bergstrom Chevrolet and they found 14 fault codes in the brake system and found a bad brake switch. GM still refuses responsibility.”

Lautenschlager also cited the NHTSA Civil Action in which General Motors agreed, on July 22, 2004, to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle charges of failing to conduct a timely automobile recall to correct another safety defect with respect to windshield wiper failure in other GM autos manufactured in 2002 and 2003.

“An argument can certainly be made that GMC has engaged in a pattern of failure to conduct timely recalls, thereby endangering the traveling public as well as imposing unnecessary service repair costs on owners of General Motors vehicles,” Lautenschlager said.


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I think it's a little mis-stated in this article. The TRUE problem (or at least one of them) was that, because they didn't design a small component in the brakes properly, a part that corrodes and completely fails after a couple years of winter muck and salt, people who live in harsher winter zones especially were having their brakes fail when this part went--NOT good. I can't remember what exactly the component's name is, but when it goes, so do the brakes, which has led to several accidents. There was also one or two other problems with the same trucks and their brakes. This is no B.S. recall, it's a real problem that they tried to minimize the severity of by selecting only certain regions to issue the recall in. And coming from someone who's driven a few different '99-04 full-size GM trucks over the years, the general braking and feel were about as bad as it gets in some regards to begin with. By FAR, the worst pedal feel I've ever experienced was our '02 Avalanche--it was beyond the point of feeling like you were stepping on a worn out dish sponge, from day one. Even stopping from slower in-town speeds was scary, just because there was so much pedal travel--which always seemed odd, because the braking distance itself seemed A-ok. Now, on the '04 Suburban with the Hydroboost system to aid in fixing the sloppy pedal feel, they are MASSIVELY better, but still not that great. Now it's about 1/4 as spongey as it used to be, but at least not frightening like the Av could be at times. Edited by caddycruiser

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