Product Liability

GM resisting NHTSA pressure to recall vehicles for potential brake line failure

GM logo GM resisting NHTSA pressure to recall vehicles for potential brake line failureGeneral Motors (GM) is resisting pressure from federal auto regulators to recall full-size pickup trucks and SUVs from 1999 to 2003 for potential brake failure, the New York Times reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the potential for brake failure in the affected vehicles since 2010. To date the agency has received about 1,000 complaints from owners. The issue affects nearly 1.8 million vehicles.

The latest publicly available figures show that NHTSA received reports of 26 crashes and three injuries related to brake line failure in the affected vehicles. Those numbers, from 2011, linked no deaths to the problem. Most of the complaints came from drivers in states where salt is used to melt snow on roads.

NHTSA has been investigating whether brake lines in the vehicles are especially prone to corrosion and subsequent failure rather than a routine maintenance issue, as GM claims.

The New York Times quoted a 2003 Chevy Silverado owner who submitted a complaint about brake failure in his truck to NHTSA last month:

“Hit brakes and a line blew. Almost hit car in front of me. Like all G.M. trucks in snow country my brake lines rusted through along with my rear backing plates. I don’t know how many people have to be killed from blown brake lines for them to do anything. I guess a lot since they held off 10 years on their current problem.”

The New York Times quotes another owner whose complaint is included in NHTSA’s investigation:

“I declined to take your offer for a voucher toward a new vehicle because I will not be purchasing any further General Motors vehicles since G.M. does not stand behind vehicles when a serious malfunction occurs,” the owner wrote to GM last July. “My children and I could have been fatally injured due to the disintegration of the brake line.”

GM has pushed back against NHTSA’s pressure to recall the vehicles, saying that the issue of brake line wear doesn’t just affect GM vehicles but the entire auto industry. The New York Times noted that Subaru voluntarily recalled more than half a million cars out of concern for corrosion-related brake loss.

In February, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles for a faulty ignition switch that could result in a sudden loss of engine power, making the car difficult to control and deactivating the airbags. The automaker has linked the ignition switch defect to 54 crashes and 13 deaths.

NHTSA has since pushed GM to recall all of its vehicles with potential safety hazards, resulting in 54 recalls affecting about 25.7 million vehicles in the U.S.

The GM trucks and SUVs NHTSA is investigating for a possible brake line recall are:

  • 2002-2003 Cadillac Escalade
  • 2002-2003 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 and 2500 models
  • 2000-2003 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • 1999-2003 Chevrolet Suburban
  • 1999-2003 Chevrolet Silverado
  • 1999-2003 GMC Sierra
  • 2000-2003 GMC Yukon
  • 2000 GMC Yukon XL


New York Times