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GM using service bulletins to report recalls

GM’s announcing of recalls by service bulletins to car dealers and owners is not an effective way of informing the public of serious problems that may cause car accidents and compromise the safety of the person driving, as well as other passengers in the vehicle.

Over the past year, GM has recalled vehicles due to an array of safety issues, including problems with airbags, power steering, and electrical systems. These recalls were preceded by countless bulletins alerting of the problems months or years in advance, yet not ordering repairs, according to regulatory findings.

Technical service bulletins are only meant to alert dealers, and occasionally car owners, about minor problems, like a faulty interior light or air conditioner. They are not intended to address serious safety issues, which according to the law, must be handled by recalls.

In just one instance, the company released three bulletins starting in 2005 addressing the problems for power steering in the Saturn Ion, yet recalls for this car didn’t start until March 2014, nine years later. In March 2010, GM recalled nearly 1.1 million Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s for the faulty power steering problem, but still did not recall the Ion, even though it used the same steering system.

GM also sent letters to dealers warning them about the about the faulty ignition problems with Chevy Cobalts and other vehicles nine years ago, yet didn’t recall millions of Cobalts and other vehicles for this problem until February of this year. The initial service bulletins just suggested that they tell drivers to remove objects attached to the ignition keys. The faulty ignition problem is now linked to 31 car accidents and 13 deaths.

Joan Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Safety Administration, said in a statement to the New York Times that there was no question that service bulletins had been used where recalls should have been and that it was highly inappropriate. In hearings, GMs chief executive, Mary T. Barra, called GMs slow response an “extraordinary situation,” yet a recent investigation by the New York Times showed that this was no isolated incident.

A recent article in The Times alluded to the fact that GM used service bulletins to be more discreet about problems and save money, and was slow to communicate and slow to act. The Times uncovered many instances where the company issued service bulletins, rather than immediately recalling cars. The gaps between bulletins and recalls ranged from six months to nine years.

A Texas judge ruled last week to allow recalled GM cars with faulty ignition switches to stay on the road, over the objection of safety advocates and plaintiffs lawyers, who said there is no way, short of repairs, to ensure the ignition switch would not slip out of the run position. Should the switch slip, it would cause the motor to turn off, disabling power steering, power brakes, and airbags, and could cause a car accident.

Although GM is insisting that these cars are safe to drive if there is only one key on the ring, they still have not addressed the problem of an ignition switch being turned off if it is accidentally bumped by a driver’s knee. Why would anyone want to take a chance when any type of jarring of the key ignition switch is known to shut down the car and potentially cause a car accident.

If you have been injured in a car accident, due to a GM vehicle or any other product safety issue, the car accident lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys can help. Call us at 855-866-5529.

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