General Motors continues to deny that there is a problem with rusting brake lines on its vehicles, as noted here yesterday. GM’s new Vice President of Global Safety, Jeffrey Boyer, claims that brake line rust “is a maintenance issue that affects the entire automotive industry.” However, a search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website shows that GM vehicles have about ten times the complaints for brake lines than Ford, Toyota and Honda combined!
NHTSA has a tool to allow searches for complaints by keyword. While there is an ongoing NHTSA investigation on model year 1999 to 2003 GM trucks, the investigation has never been expanded to include newer models which also seem to be plagued by brake line corrosion which leads to brake failure. Here are the figures from a NHTSA complaint search using the keywords “brake line.”
Chevrolet models, model years 1999-2008: 1,372 complaints.
GMC models, model years 1999-2008: 485 complaints.
Ford models, model years 1999-2008: 153 complaints.
Chrysler and Dodge, model years 1999-2008: 114 complaints.
Toyota models, model years 1999-2008: 58 complaints.
Honda models, model years 1999-2008: 15 complaints.
Changing the keyword search to “brakeline” added 38 more complaints for Chevrolet and GMC, bringing us to the 1,895 number of total complaints. Cadillac and Buick models do not seem to have an unusually high number of complaints.
GM has also pointed to the fact that NHTSA’s investigation focuses on older models. This defense does not hold water, as model year 2004 to 2008 Chevrolet (primarily the Silverado) and GMC vehicles logged 420 complaints for brake lines compared to the next highest number for a manufacturer, Ford, which had only 45 complaints for the same model years.
Despite the clear evidence that GM vehicles suffer from brake failure from rusted brake lines at a much higher rate than other manufacturers, NHTSA has failed to force a recall and has not even expanded its investigation to include later model years. The facts are right there on NHTSA’s website, which hopefully will not crash and cause the evidence to be destroyed.
GM has made a show of late with numerous recalls, claiming that “New” GM is focused on safety. It appears that GM is most focused on recalling vehicles which do not have high costs of repairs. In fact, GM’s latest recall of millions of vehicles for ignition problems involves a fix which was tried on the infamous Chevy Cobalt ignition problem before the vehicles were eventually recalled to replace the ignitions. An inexpensive key insert will be inserted into the keys of the recalled vehicles, costing GM very little. Problem solved!
Recalling vehicles prone to brake line corrosion will cost GM much more than inserting plastic inserts into keys. It appears that fact has lead to a continued denial of a problem by GM, most recently by new safety guy, Jeffrey Boyer. The evidence is clear that GM has a safety issue with corroding brake lines. No other manufacturer has had the type and amount of complaints that GM has had, perhaps with the exception of Subaru which did the right thing by recalling its vehicles. GM should step up and have the same safety and quality standards of Subaru by recalling all vehicles that have been proven to be prone to brake line corrosion problems.
Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.