GM Asked to Recall 6 Million Chevy Silverados and Other Vehicles for Brake Corrosion Problem

Mary BarraHere’s the text of a letter I sent today to GM CEO Mary Barra. As I indicate, we welcomed her affirmative response to our request last month for a recall of a separate set of vehicles with a different problem.

Dear Ms. Barra:

We ask General Motors (the Company) to recall model years 1999 through 2003 for the following vehicles: Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Sierra, GMC Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

These six million pickups and SUVs endanger the lives and safety of their owners due to a loss of braking related to brake line corrosion.

According to an ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has received 890 complaints of brake line corrosion involving 13 crashes and two injuries. From the summary:

In approximately 25 percent of the complaints, the brake pipe failure has allegedly occurred suddenly, with no warning to the driver (i.e., no brake warning light), and resulted in extended stopping distances. In 26 of these incidents, the increase in stopping distance that resulted was alleged as a factor in a crash and in 10 others the vehicle was intentionally steered off the road or into another lane of travel in order to avoid a crash.

This investigation has been open for three years. It is NHTSA’s longest-running open investigation, and the second longest in its history. We do not know why NHTSA has not ordered a recall or if politics has entered into NHTSA decision-making.

We are encouraged that in apparent response to our March 19 request you ordered a recall on March 30 of Saturn Ions and other vehicles with a power steering defect. 

Like the brake line problem, the power steering defect was the subject of an open NHTSA investigation, but you did the right thing, and did not wait for NHTSA to act.

Like the ignition switch and power steering defects, the brake corrosion is a serious problem of which the Company has been aware for several years. The problem is particularly acute in cold-weather states, affecting 1.77 million vehicles, a subset of the six million total. From the same NHTSA summary:

…Of the 890 total complaints for brake pipe corrosion identified, 761 were located in Salt Belt states (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin). The complaint rate per 100,000 vehicles sold is significantly higher in the Salt Belt, 43.0, compared with 3.0 for the remaining states.

You reportedly told journalists recently, “The recall team is being thorough, progressive and proactive.”  If this is the case, there is no reason for further delay in recalling these light trucks and SUVs. END LETTER

Like the power steering recall, this request is based on anomolies found on the NHTSA website by NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica. Click here for Mark’s posting yesterday on this issue.

My letter today was copied to:

Eric Holder, Attorney General

Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation

David J. Friedman, Acting Administrator, NHTSA

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Chairman, Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance

Rep. Fred Upton, Chairman, House Energy & Commerce Committee

Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee


Group Urges Recall of 6 Million Trucks, SUVs (Detroit News)