GM Recalls Go Up In Flames

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It recently came to light that 1,345 GM built cars have caught fire despite being “fixed” as a result of recalls several years ago. The problems with the vehicles, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Impala and Lumina, Oldsmobile Intrigue, Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix, model years 1997 to 2004, started surfacing in 2006. GM believes that the fires are caused by oil seeping through deteriorated gaskets in its 3.8 liter V6 engines onto hot exhaust manifolds which can ignite the fires. GM originally reported at least 17 structure fires and 19 minor injuries caused by the vehicles catching fire.

GM issued two separate recalls, one in 2006 and another in 2008, for a total of 1.7 million vehicles to address the problem. Some of the recalled vehicles were fixed by replacing the gasket in question, while most of them were repaired by replacing flammable plastic parts located near the exhaust manifold. GM’s thought process at the time was that if oil did penetrate the gasket, a small flame may ignite under the hood. Therefore, an acceptable fix was to replace parts that would allow that small flame to spread. Really? A small engine fire is acceptable as long as it does not turn in to an inferno? Unconscionable.

GM should have fixed the oil leak problem such that the leaking did not happen to begin with. Of course, that didn’t happen because GM didn’t want to foot the bill. Replacing the valve cover gaskets to begin with would not have cost that much, but paying for the labor to do so appears to be where GM drew the line. Proper repairs could have run as high as 112 million, so GM went the cheap route. But it was immediately evident that the cheap repairs weren’t working, because complaints of fires in the “fixed” cars started rolling in as early as 2009. And although the complaints continue to roll in, GM continues to ignore its customers in their time of need by denying claims for compensation for damages caused by the fires. Buyer beware.