A lawsuit filed by survivors of a woman killed in a 2007 Chevy Trailblazer alleges GM has had continuous issues with steering sensors. It says both the high amount of warranty claims and a manufacturing flaw should have triggered a recall. The lawsuit claims that when the GM StabiliTrak sensor fails it disables electronic stability control. This safety feature is supposed to prevent accidents like the one that took the life of the 42-year-old mother that died.
A GM probe revealed 73,700 warranty claims related to StabiliTrak
An internal GM probe in 2018 into the steering sensor issue was sealed from the public by a judge in Georgia. Reuters was able to report on the findings of that probe. The probe revealed 73,700 warranty claims related to the steering sensor. This was verified by a GM document and deposition of a GM employee in the probe.
GM declines to comment on claims and pending litigation. But it did tell Reuters it has investigated the claims with many experts involved. It said after “rigorous analysis of internal and external data we’re not aware of any other complaints alleging accidents” other than this one case.
The number of claims, supported by the GM document, means 10% of GM SUVs built between 2006 and 2009 had sensor issues. Manufacturers usually factor defects and problems for components at a fraction of one percent. Besides this information, there have been three other legal claims and almost 6,000 complaints coming from both dealers and owners.
Roughly 500,000 vehicles with StabiliTrak remain on the road
There were 778,000 GM SUVs built during the 2006-2009 timeframe. It is estimated that roughly 500,000 with the steering sensor remain on the roads today. This is according to automotive marketing firm Hedges & Company.
A company employee interviewed by Reuters says GM chose not to issue a recall because GM’s probe was inconclusive as to what caused the accident. He said it was not apparent if the stability control was inoperative leading to the woman’s death. Reuters says that the GM probe did not determine sensor defects.
Stability controls have saved more than 7,000 lives
The stability control being spotlighted in the lawsuit is called “StabiliTrak.” It is an electronic function that adjusts the brakes and engine power if it senses a loss of control. Also, it monitors the positions of the steering wheel. US safety regulations have mandated its inclusion into most all new cars since 2011. From 2011 to 2015 the NHTSA claimed stability controls have saved more than 7,000 lives.
The plaintiff’s lawyer is Lance Cooper. He is familiar with going after GM as he compiled evidence that triggered the GM ignition-switch problems. It led to revealing that GM concealed issues with its defective ignition switches leading to 124 deaths. Millions of GM vehicles used that particular ignition switch.
The NHTSA reviewed issues raised by a letter from Cooper. In January of this year, the NHTSA decided not to open an investigation into the GM StabiliTrak concerns. GM provided documents to the NHTSA when it reviewed the StabiliTrak history. The NHTSA says it “determined there was insufficient evidence to lead to a formal investigation at this time.” But it left the door open for further investigation if other evidence comes to light.