Trends in any industry can seemingly pop up overnight, but the latest trend in the automotive industry is a negative one. All automakers strive to install the latest technology in their vehicles, but innovations by General Motors and Tesla are attracting the wrong kind of publicity. Specifically, the problem with GM ignition switches has caused several deaths and prompted a class action lawsuit, and Tesla’s car battery problems are now known nationwide.
From “On” to “Off”
GM is being forced to recall vehicles dating as far back as 2001 because of problems with the ignition switches. The switches can suddenly move by themselves from the “on” to the “off” position, causing vehicles to stall. They can get bumped into the “accessory” mode, shutting off the engine and disabling the air bags, power steering and power brakes.
Attempts to correct the problem apparently aren’t working. The recall was recently expanded to 2.6 million cars, which includes 971,000 late model vehicles due to faulty replacement parts. The recall affects Pontiac Solstice from 2003 through 2011, and all model years of:
- Pontiac G5
- Saturn Ion
- Saturn Sky
This has been ongoing, and has caused 31 crashes and 12 deaths over the years. The problem is that a number of these cars have been resold, and are now so old that some of the defective vehicles may never be found. There is speculation that GM may have known about the problem as far back as 2001. Lawmakers are now questioning why federal regulations already in place didn’t catch the issue earlier.
Failure to Disclose
Another class action lawsuit is in effect against Tesla Motors, for its batteries that can catch fire. The December, 2013, lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California. Prosecuting attorneys say that the manufacturer of this all-electric car failed to tell the public that the undercarriage and lithium ion battery pack on the Model S can puncture. The lawsuit states that the risk of fire is because of material defects in the battery.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration opened an investigation into the battery fires, but closed it when Tesla announced it will install shields to try and prevent future fires. The NHTSA didn’t issue a recall of any Teslas, but it added that the closing of the investigation does not necessarily mean there is no safety issue. Tesla chose not to issue its own recall, but announced it will install the shields to existing cars as part of its normally scheduled maintenance.
Automotive recalls are nothing new, but these two have seemed to take on a life of their own. GM could end up paying out as much as $2 billion in fines, but Tesla may have escaped an expensive recall by agreeing to install shields on its vehicles. Regardless of how the manufacturers react, motorists ultimately pay the price in terms of driving vehicles deemed unsafe for the road.