GM CEO Mary Barra Ignores Brake Corrosion Safety Issue

Barra photoWell, it looks like New GM is not much different than Old GM when it comes to addressing serious safety issues on its vehicles. The Associated Press reports that General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, claims that GM has not turned up any other major safety issues. I guess Ms. Barra feels that two tons of steel traveling at high speeds with brake lines that can burst at any moment is nothing to be concerned about. The continued denial by GM that there is no safety issue with their trucks that are prone to brake line corrosion proves that the company has a long way to go before they change a culture that puts profits ahead of motorists’ safety.

Last month we sent a letter to GM and Ms. Barra requesting that GM trucks that are prone to brake line rust be recalled. The problems plague Chevy Silverados, GMC Sierras and a few other GM trucks / SUVs. There are thousands of complaints recorded on the internet, to GM dealers and on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website. In fact, NHTSA has an ongoing investigation on model year 1999-2003 GM trucks which started in 2010. I recently exposed new evidence that later model GM trucks are also prone to brake line corrosion resulting in brake failure. NHTSA has yet to expand their investigation to newer model GM trucks, despite receiving numerous complaints on those vehicles.

Newer model year GM trucks up to 2007 have hundreds of complaints of failed braking due to brake lines bursting due to corrosion. We have also notified NHTSA of our concerns. In addition, I have emailed GM spokesman, Greg Martin, of the safety issue when I discovered the newer model GM trucks with the complaints. Mr. Martin has yet to reply to my emails.

American motorists should be very concerned that they and their families are sharing the roads with GM trucks that might lose their brakes at any time due to the corrosion problem. Mary Barra’s recent denial of a problem echoes that of GM spokesman, Alan Adler, who says that brake lines rusting out in as soon as six years is a normal wear and tear issue.  Mr. Adler is the spokesman who initially came out during GM’s ignition switch fatal recall delay scandal and claimed that the victims were at fault for accidents involving defective GM vehicles.

As far as brake failure not being considered a serious problem by GM, a look at the complaints on NHTSA’s website shows that motorists whose brakes fail as a result of rusted brake lines feel differently. Here’s an excerpt from a complaint involving a crash of a 2004 Chevy Silverado (a model not even under investigation by NHTSA) which resulted in the injury of a pedestrian in December of 2012:

THE CONTACT OWNS A 2004 CHEVROLET SILVERADO 1500. THE CONTACT STATED THAT WHILE BRAKING FOR A TRAFFIC STOP, THE BRAKES ABNORMALLY TRAVELED TO THE FLOORBOARD AND THE VEHICLE DID NOT RESPOND. AS A RESULT, THE CONTACT CRASHED INTO A PEDESTRIAN. THE PEDESTRIAN WAS INJURED AND TRANSPORTED TO THE HOSPITAL. A POLICE REPORT WAS FILED OF THE INCIDENT. THE VEHICLE WAS TAKEN TO A MECHANIC, WHERE IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE ENTIRE BRAKE LINE WAS COMPLETELY RUSTED.

I will continue to attempt to have GM address the brake line rust safety issue with its trucks. I have notified congressional representatives as well, with emails going to representatives of the house committee in charge of the GM recall investigation, my local representative Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) who is a GM dealership owner with extensive knowledge of the industry. Owners of GM trucks with corroded brake lines, as well as other concerned motorists, are encouraged to use social networking and correspondences to their local representatives in congress (good luck with that one) to help spread the message that GM is again failing in its responsibility to address safety issues with its vehicles.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.