Toyota has been through it: lawyers smelling blood in the water, injured consumers, and those going for the gold by signing on to class-action lawsuits.
Now it’s General Motors’ turn.
Thousands of G.M. vehicles are part of the current faulty ignition-switch recall, another auto company scandal and shakedown, er, problem (witness Toyota and its “unintended acceleration” woes).
Last week, a U.S. judge in Texas decided to “go slow” after lawyers and families of victims called for a corporate lynching. They want General Motors to ground 2.53 million cars due to the defective ignition. So, how do 2.53 million drivers get around without their cars? It’s an immense problem that no consumer lawyer, or even a federal judge, can get their hands around. In fact, the problem might cause its own spin off of lawsuits (to which many in our area will be happy to sign on to).
G.M. is one of only two remaining U.S.-owned auto companies. Chrysler, like it or not, is really a foreign car company now being owned by the Italians thanks to Uncle Sam giving away that farm to foreigners just after the U.S. taxpayer bailed it out. And, ironically, as a new, leaner, meaner G.M., under Mary Barra’s leadership, was emerging from its predecessor’s bankrupt Government Motors bailout image, the old G.M. made a creepy reappearance, much like actor Jack Nicholson’s weird movie character in “The Shining”.
Toyota’s scandal and subsequent $1.2 billion shakedown by the DOJ—due to the controversial unintended acceleration debacle—was in the big news just as the G.M. problem moved up in the headlines to remind us that it’s always open season on big business. But in fairness to the Detroit boys and girls—hey, if Toyota vehicles weren’t grounded over the acceleration problem (which had casualties, too) why should G.M.’s vehicles be grounded?
With millions of these G.M vehicles already over the 100,000-mile mark on the odometer, why the sudden urgency to ground fleets of the cars?
Many G.M. cars have well over 100,000 miles and; so far, no ignition-failure problem.
Are the ignition failures in vehicles with over 100,000 miles or under? (We don’t seem to know.) No matter, why should we stop driving our car based on a few accidents (and deaths)?
We are told that there’s a problem with the airbag power. Well, what we don’t hear in the news reports is the fact that G.M. passenger airbags (the bags in question of failure) have a backup power source; part of engineering-in safety in-depth.
So, we must agree with G.M. attorney David Balser. He told the Texas judge hearing the case that grounding 2.53 million cars would be “unprecedented” and “cause chaos.”
How about the math: 31 crashes and 12 deaths since 2001 out of 2.53 million vehicles; not something for G.M. to be proud of, yet it doesn’t take an Alan Turing to notice that 31 events out of 2.53 million in 13 years is, well, not something requiring the grounding of an entire fleet.
An observation: If there is a bona fide catastrophic flaw running through every single ignition switch installed in 2.53 million cars, wouldn’t there be a far higher number of crashes and deaths that we’d be hearing about?.
How are other G.M. drivers reacting to all this?
There is a Facebook-based group of recreational Chevrolet HHR owners. Members are still cruising around and enjoying their fun, spiffy retro-styled cars. Sure, the news is unsettling, but remember that so much of what we hear in the media is composed of equal parts of hype and hysteria. Spurned owners aside, when there are DOJ and other lawyers sniffing the water for corporate blood... Need I say more?
Will G.M. end up exactly like Toyota—a one-way trip to Shakedown City. Will it be forced to pay out for a problem that, at least statistically, doesn’t appear as catastrophic as first reported by the news media and the attorneys of victims and consumer groups.