August 20, 2012

GM Recalls 250,000 SUVs Due to Risk of Fire

General Motors and Isuzu have issued a safety recall for approximately 250,000 SUVs prone to unacceptable risk of fire. After numerous reports of vehicle fires going back as much as 5 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the problem for months, and the action is long overdue. The fires are believed to be caused by a defect in the electrical system that services the power windows and doors. The affected electrical systems failed to protect their circuits against chemicals used in winter road-clearance; corrosion then causes a short in the circuit board. This could trigger window or door malfunction -- or ultimately, fire. The problem is what is referred to as a "latent defect," one that did not show up until the vehicles were several years old. Many of these SUVs have been sold and resold, not just in areas of harsh winter weather, but throughout the country.

The SUVs do not even have to be running when the fire starts. One woman reported that she looked out a window to her driveway when she heard the car alarm go off. She was horrified to see her 2006 Trailblazer going up in flames. The fire department found the source of the fire to be in the driver's side door.

Among the models recalled are certain 2006-2007 Isuzu Ascender, Saab 97-X, Buick Rainier, GMC Envoy and the popular Chevy Trailblazer. Saab was part of General Motors back then and GM build the Ascender model for Isuzu during the relevant time. You can find out more details from NHTSA by accessing the Campaign Number 12V40600.

This recall is particularly important, because repair dealers have told consumers complaining about electric window malfunctions that these SUVs are out of warranty. Now, owners will soon be notified of the repair or remedy. In our practice, we have heard manufacturers claim that defective door locks and window mechanisms are "trivial," or even that consumers started the fire themselves. These desperate defenses do not get far in court. Now, this recall gives credibility to car owners' claims that vehicle electrical systems do in fact affect the use, value and safety of the vehicles.