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general motors
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gm's 1973-1987 ck chevrolet and gmc pickups contain the most deadly design defect in auto history.   over 1600 people have been killed in crashes of these models involving fires.  hundreds more have been maimed. 

in order to meet a demand in the marketplace for carrying more fuel than any other truck, gm decided to place the gas tanks on this model outside the frame rails.  this placement can easily be seen from the road as the tank hangs down below the door on either or both sides of the truck.  the tank is protected only by the door frame and is easily crushed in a side impact or "sled-runner" collision.  as a matter of fact, any collision in these trucks can turn deadly -- not only to the driver or passenger, but to any vehicle involved in an accident with these trucks.  

 
1.  why did gm ignore its own long-standing engineering policy to place fuel tanks inside the frame?

*  in 1964, a gm engineering executive issued a policy statement requiring that all gm vehicles have their fuel tanks as near to the center of the vehicle as practicable.  in 1969, gm initial drawings for its "new" truck (which became the c/k truck) placed the fuel tanks between the frame rails.

*  in june, 1970, the design order for developing the c/k trucks required placement of the tanks outside of the frame, with 40 gallons capacity.  gm's chief engineer for this design has testified that the 40 gallon capacity was a requirement placed on the design by marketing.

*  after gm management made the decision to place the fuel tanks outside the frame, gm engineers recommended moving or shielding the tanks at least five times -- in 1972, 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982.

*  in 1978, a self-described "jury" of gm engineers was asked by gm design staff to consider whether or not to move the fuel tanks for a planned 1981 redesign of the c/k trucks.  that jury concluded that the tanks should go inside the frame rails.  another internal report commissioned by gm's design engineers concluded that the worst place to put a fuel tank is outside the frame rails and at the sides of a vehicle. 

 
2.  did gm know the fuel tanks were potential killers?  did they work to cover-up and suppress its knowledge?

*  almost from the beginning of sales of the new 1973 model c/k trucks, fires resulting in severe burns began to happen.  the first occurred in december, 1973.  gm also began receiving many complaints of fuel tank failures through its insurance company and dealers.

*  in 1975, gm issued orders to its accident investigators to pay particular attention to accidents involving c/k trucks, specifically to identify the type and source of any fire.  

*  july, 1981, gm began an internal testing program in which c/k trucks - some of which were "enhanced" to protect the gas tanks in various ways -- were hit in the side by sedans traveling 30 and 50 miles per hour.  most tests resulted in excessive fuel spillage.

*  even though it had received several court orders and was required by law to disclose the existence of these 1981 tests, gm refused to do so until the summer of 1992.  since that time, a flood of internal documents obtained through court orders and testimony from gm employees has revealed the extent of gm's internal testing and knowledge of the flaws in its design.

*  beginning in about january, 1983, gm hired young lawyers from around the country to locate and collect internal documents throughout the corporation concerning the fuel system design in c/k trucks.  these lawyers were later nicknamed the "fire babies."  many of the documents collected were later determined to have been destroyed.

 
3.  is gm's claim that fixing the fuel system would cost $1 billion wrong? 

*  in 1982, as a result of the 1981 testing, the original designer of the c/k trucks recommended moving the fuel tanks inside the rails.  his costs analysis for plant re-tooling to do it came to $2,750,000.  gm rejected his recommendation, and proceeded to sell 2,059,000 more of the trucks with the deadly design.  if gm had done the re-tooling in 1982, it would have cost the corporation about $1.33 per truck.  and hundreds of lives would have been saved.

*  although gm has refused to recall and fix the fuel tank problems for average consumers, gm did retrofit the fuel tanks with protective liners for fleet owners of the vehicles.  the cost of the liner -- $15.00.  the time in labor to put the liner on -- about 15 minutes. 

 
4.  how many people have been killed as a result of this fuel tank design?

*  this questions has been answered in many different ways.  to date, over 1600 people have been killed in c/k truck accidents involving fires.  to determine the cause of death, each accident must be carefully analyzed by experts.  sometimes even the coroner's initial determination proves questionable.  the center for auto safety puts this number at over 800, far more than those killed by the infamous ford pinto rear mounted gas tanks.

*  the number of people killed pales by comparison to the number of persons maimed by this design.  we have no way to determine how many people have had limbs burned from their bodies and carry horrible scars.  these statistics are not kept by the national traffic highway safety administration.  also, those who live more than 30 days after their accident (and then perish) are not counted.  why?

saturday, february 7, 2004  tulsa world

 "general motors corp said friday it is recalling 1.8 million cars to repair potential problems with the ignition switch that may cause a fire.

 "the models involved are certain 1998-2001 chevrolet cavaliers and pontiac sunfires built between march 1997 and april 2001.  in addition, some 1998 pontiac grand am, oldsmobile achieva, and buick skylark cars built between march 1997 and january 1998 are being recalled.

 "the vehicles are to be serviced to prevent high electrical current flow through the ignition switch that may cause a fire in the steering column.

 "the automaker said there have been reports of 80 incidents of heat build-up, melted components, smoldering parts or fires in the ignition system and steering column.  it said no injuries or fatalities have been reported."

more to come ------  

 


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