Clarity amongst Confusion in the Aftermath of GM Recalls

Despite the abundance of media attention following the recent recalls of GM vehicles, many of the more than 6 million consumers affected by the recall, are still left with unanswered questions. Even more concerning-many motorists are entirely unaware that they may be the owner or operator of a recalled GM vehicle. As attorneys that practice both personal injury law, as well as product liability, Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. observe that the aggregate effect of consumer confusion and/or unawareness, has placed an immeasurable number of motorists at risk for loss of life or limb.

Although the media has been, and continues to be, an important means of providing notification to consumers, our team of injury lawyers are left wondering if the necessary information has been properly received by all person affected. While initial media reports focused on the ignition related recall for older model GM vehicles, the recall was subsequently expanded to include several newer model vehicles as well. Further, the initial ignition-related recalls were not the only major recall recently announced by GM. Late in March, GM reported its intent to recall several additional vehicles, due to issue with faulty power steering. As Accident & Injury attorneys, we find this sequence of recalls highly problematic, and for several reasons.

First, the original ignition recall may have led many consumers to conclude that their vehicle was not included within the class of vehicles affected. Therefore, when the ignition recall was later expanded to include newer models, many may have failed to reconsider, or simply overlooked, that their vehicle may indeed be subject to the recall. Second, the subsequent recall of the power steering issue, which affected many of the same vehicles that were listed in the ignition recall, may have also led to further confusion amongst consumers. Many may have failed to heed to recall warnings, because they were unaware that this was a separate and distinct recall, or that it affected multiple other GM vehicles, and, in some cases, both.

The Automobile Collision Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer also take note of other issues that may potentially impede a consumers ability to determine, discover, or understand whether a vehicle they own or operate might be affected. For example, updated information pertaining to the ignition recall has been provided on a separate website. This website does not make any reference to the power steering issue. Although the website is in fact recall-type specific, GM fails to use the opportunity to provide consumers with valuable information that could prevent the occurrence of future accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

In addition, both the media and statements from GM have led many consumers to believe that if they have an affected vehicle, that they will receive notification of the issue. In fact, in the letter of acknowledgement to the National Highway Safety Administration, GM specifically states that “GM will notify owners.” However, the notification process is based upon current information from the vehicle owner’s state registration. Consequently, if the information available is incorrect, such as where vehicle owners that have moved and failed to update their current address, consumers may not receive a recall notification. Further, while the U.S. postal system is a generally reliable means of mail delivery, we all know that it is not always 100% effective.

Moreover, GM’s recall and warranty website requires users to provide a vehicle identification number (VIN), in order to retrieve information regarding their vehicle. Given the extent of the recall, it would seem more appropriate if GM were to make information available to consumers simply by providing vehicle make, model, and year. Ironically, you can obtain owner’s manual information without a VIN, as well as other general information regarding your specific vehicle type, however no mention of the recall is provided through this specific source on their website, entitled “Get to know my vehicle.” Certainly, ‘knowing your vehicle’ should include knowing about any recalls associated with it. The injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer see this as another missed opportunity for GM to provide consumers with vital safety information.

Makes sure you know the full list of all affected vehicles. As of mid-April 2014, the list includes:

Ignition Recall:
• Chevrolet-Cobalt 2005-2010;
• Chevrolet HHR 2006-2011 • Pontiac- G5 2007-2010;
• Pontiac Solstice 2006-2010 • Saturn- Ion 2003-2007;
• Saturn Sky 2007-2010
Power Steering Recall:
• Chevrolet Cobalt 2010 • Chevrolet HHR 2009-2010 • Chevrolet Malibu 2004-2006, 2008-2009 • Chevrolet Malibu Maxx 2004-2006 • Pontiac G6 2005-2006, 2008-2009 • Saturn Aura 2008-2009 • Saturn Ion 2004-2007
While knowing the list of current recalled vehicles is a good starting point, consumer concern should not stop there. It is vital that consumers continue to check for additional updates that may expand the list of affected vehicles at a future time. It is equally important to avoid making any assumptions regarding the receipt of notification for a vehicle. Consumers may want to take the initiative to register their vehicle’s VIN through the GM website. Even so, The Products Liability Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer remind consumers that this may not be the end of GM-vehicle-related problems.

Given GM’s recent history of detecting faulty vehicle components in a series of announcements, which occurred over several months, it is anyone’s guess whether another recall may either expand the list of ignition or steering recalls, or identify a completely new issue. As auto accident attorneys, we find unease in GM’s recent decision to discontinue production of the Chevrolet Cruze, which replaced the Cobalt (a vehicle listed in the recalls), and doing so without providing consumers an explanation. Not only did this announcement come days before the steering recall, but GM simply isn’t providing answers to questions posed by consumer and safety advocates.

If you have already identified your vehicle as one included within the recall, make sure you take the safety precautions necessary while you await repair. For the vehicles falling under the ignition recall, owners can remove everything from the key ring (including the key fob), which GM claims will make the vehicle safe to drive pending repair. However, for the power steering issue, GM has neither offered an interim or temporary fix, and as of March 31, 2014 has stated that parts are not currently available. As products liability attorneys, this seems rather perplexing. Consumers have not been provided with a means to repair their vehicle, nor has the option for reimbursement of a rental vehicle been offered. Perhaps GM feels that motorists who own or operate a vehicle with a recalled steering problem should simply discontinue use of their vehicle until further notice? Hmm, really?

What, then, should consumers that own a GM vehicle, or motorists that operate a GM vehicle, take from this? Well, unfortunately, it appears that perhaps no concise answer can be provided other than-be proactive, and proceed with caution.

If you or a loved one suffered injury or fatality in a collision involving a GM vehicle, it is imperative that you discuss the matter with an attorney experienced in representing victims of accidents associated with defect, malfunction, or faulty vehicle components. The Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. have decades of practice experience, and have obtained the compensation on behalf of numerous victims injured or killed as a result of a product liability related motor vehicle crash.