Niagara Gazette

March 27, 2014

TOM'S CORNER: From the automotive news desk at America's Car Show

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Ticker tape is running and flash! It’s another edition of Automotive News from America’s Car Show served up piping hot off the presses!

... Regarding the growing GM recall that is now referred to in the automotive media as “Switchgate.”


New GM isn’t liable for accidents that happened under old GM’s watch

As you probably know by now, General Motors is in hot water for a series of recalls that affect more than 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in particular, wants to know why GM is just now recalling the cars when it began receiving complaints about the underlying problem more than a decade ago. The recall stems from faulty ignition switches on select Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Saturn vehicles from the 2003 to 2007 model years. Those switches have been linked to at least 31 collisions and 13 deaths. Chances are good that consumers will file some kind of class action lawsuit against the automaker, but whether they’ll win their case is up for debate. Why?

Because GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and in doing so, it became a new legal entity. General Motors Corporation was laid to rest, and from its ashes arose the General Motors Company. The name change may seem insignificant but it carries big implications for the current recall. That’s because the company that made the defective vehicles no longer exists, and GM Company has little if any liability. As AutoNews points out, today’s General Motors Company is only liable for accidents that occurred after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy in July of 2009. Any collisions or deaths prior to that would’ve happened on the old General Motors Corporation’s watch. Plaintiffs can still sue the “old” GM, but they’ll have to do so in bankruptcy court, where payouts are hard to come by.



2012-13 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango

According to a press release from Chrysler, the Grand Cherokee/Durango recall is meant to address “pedal feel” on the vehicles’ brakes. The automaker was contacted by a parts supplier, which believed that one of its components might be interfering with Chrysler’s Ready Alert Braking system. That system “primes brakes for optimal response when making a sudden stop.” Upon investigation, Chrysler found that brake fluid in the Grand Cherokee and Durango was in fact being restricted, which caused the diminished brake pedal feel. However, the company points out that “Brake function was neither lost nor out of compliance with regulation” because of the problem. The flaw affects 18,700 vehicles purchased in the U.S. & 825 in Canada with the remaining vehicles located in other countries. Chrysler hasn’t issued a timeline for fixing the problem, but says that it will let owners know when they can take their vehicles to Chrysler dealers for free repairs. If you own one of the affected vehicles and have additional questions, contact Chrysler directly at 800-853-1403.



New Audi technology will keep you from waiting at red lights

(Now this I like!) Audi thinks you should never have to wait at a red light again, thanks to a new technology. Originally introduced as a prototype at CES, the Smart City Traffic Light Assistance system puts to use, data sent to the vehicle via Wi-Fi. The display will tell the driver just how fast they need to be going in order to catch the green light, and if they do get caught at a red, just how long they’re going to have to wait. Audi boasts that this new technology will cut emissions of its vehicles by 15 percent, thanks to the systems’ synchronization with already existing start-stop technology. This reportedly will save about 2.37 million gallons of fuel per year in Germany alone. But when will this advanced new system be put in place? Sooner than you think. With the ‘prototype’ making its debut at CES late last year, Audi engineers say that the system is now “production ready and could be fitted to every Audi model in the range subject to the necessary government legislation.” The final production version is expected later this year, with production-ready vehicles receiving the technology sometime in 2015 (if not sooner).



Next-Gen Cadillac CTS-V to crank out 600HP

The Cadillac CTS-V is one of the favorite cars on the market today. It’s a combination of performance and luxury that has set records and put the rest of the performance world on notice. The second generation of the CTS-V was a winner in every sense of the word, but what can we expect from the forthcoming third generation? For starters, expect some serious power. The new CTS-V will come equipped with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, like its predecessor. But unlike the predecessor, which was fitted with GM’s LSA V8, the new CTS-V will feature a modified version of the supercharged LT4 found in the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Z06. The new engine will make closer to 600 horsepower and 600 pound feet of torque. The new Cadillac could come out in 2015 with an MSRP of around $66,000.



And this just in on the GM ignition switch recall ...

GM recall expands to Canada

General Motors has formally expanded its ignition-switch recall to include vehicles sold in the Canadian market. The company has begun distributing recall notices to owners of approximately 235,000 vehicles, including certain Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR, Pontiac G5 and Solstice, and Saturn Ion and Sky models.

As the automaker faces a handful of parallel investigations into its handling of the recall, new documents reveal that the company was first aware of the problem in 2001 during pre-production testing of the Saturn Ion. Previously the issue was said to have been discovered in 2004 with the Chevrolet Cobalt, which already represented a decade of inaction.

Following reports that GM’s 2009 bankruptcy effectively absolves the current company from liability in pre-2009 deaths related to the defective switches, the Center for Auto Safety has called on GM to establish a $1 billion victims fund to honor claims that “have been extinguished by the bankruptcy” or by statutes of limitations.

“While GM has said it knows of 13 deaths in 31 crashes with injury, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said CAS executive director Clarence Ditlow in an open letter to GM CEO Mary Barra. “The 13 deaths don’t even include Brooke Melton who died in March 2010 and whose family’s lawsuit broke the cloak of secrecy this past month.” Source:

We’ll keep an eye on this as it plays out.

‘Til next time ... Keep Rollin’

“America’s Car Show” with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.