This Reuters story, or variations thereof, can be found all over the place:
General Motors Co. is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over a suspension problem on more than 400,000 Chevrolet Impalas from the 2007 and 2008 model years, saying it should not be responsible for repairs because the flaw predated its bankruptcy.
The lawsuit, filed on June 29 by Donna Trusky of Blakely, Pennsylvania, contended that her Impala suffered from faulty rear spindle rods, causing her rear tires to wear out after just 6,000 miles.
Seeking class-action status and alleging breach of warranty, the lawsuit demands that GM fix the rods, saying that it had done so on Impala police vehicles.
But in a recent filing with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, GM noted that the cars were made by its predecessor General Motors Corp, now called Motors Liquidation Co or “Old GM,” before its 2009 bankruptcy and federal bailout.
The current company, called “New GM,” said it did not assume responsibility under the reorganization to fix the Impala problem, but only to make repairs “subject to conditions and limitations” in express written warranties. In essence, the automaker said, Trusky sued the wrong entity.
“New GM’s warranty obligations for vehicles sold by Old GM are limited to the express terms and conditions in the Old GM written warranties on a going-forward basis,” wrote Benjamin Jeffers, a lawyer for GM. “New GM did not assume responsibility for Old GM’s design choices, conduct, or alleged breaches of liability under the warranty.”
David Fink, Trusky’s lawyer, declined to comment.
Here’s what no one seems to be mentioning: the basic warranty on ’07-’08 Chevrolets was three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Except for a handful of leftovers that hung around while the ’09s were being shipped, all these cars are out of warranty; neither Old GM nor New GM is necessarily required to fix this issue, unless there is a formal recall under the auspices of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of this writing, no such recall has been announced; there’s not even an investigation going on.
Mrs Trusky, it appears, did bring up the issue before the warranty ran out (February ’11 in her case). From The Detroit News:
[She] bought a new Impala in February 2008 and said the tires wore out within 6,000 miles.
Her GM dealer replaced the tires and provided an alignment, but didn’t disclose the spindle rod issue, she said.
According to the suit, GM issued a service bulletin in 2008 for police versions of the Impala.
Last November, Trusky couldn’t pass an annual inspection without getting another set of rear tires — even though the vehicle had fewer than 25,000 miles.
So the second set of tires lasted three times longer than the first. What can we conclude from that? Not a whole lot, really, considering that police versions of the Impala don’t have the same rear suspension bits as the civilian cars.
Ultimately, though, I have to side with commenter “geeber” at TTAC:
This is one of those “lose-lose” scenarios from a public relations standpoint. In a lawsuit such as this, GM will naturally throw every argument into its brief as to why the lawsuit should be dismissed. One of the arguments, of course, relates to the bankruptcy filing, and, if precedent is followed, it will likely stick.
This does not necessarily mean that GM won’t fix Impalas built before 2009. One would hope that GM would agree to this, to at least promote customer goodwill. Given that most of these cars were sold as either police cars or fleet specials, the exposure to retail customers should be minimal, so going the extra mile to make those customers happy shouldn’t break the bank.
If anything, getting the lawsuit dismissed could ensure that GM’s money is spent actually fixing the problem as opposed to paying plaintiff’s attorneys fees.
Which suggests to me that GM, while it won’t come out of this smelling like a rose, might avoid a more-unpleasant stench by manning up and asking for NHTSA to step in.