Study Predicts More Than 3,400 Americans Will Be Injured or Killed by Defective GM or Chrysler Cars in First Year of Post-Bankruptcy Era

Jun 23, 2009, 01:00 ET from Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.

REHOBOTH, Mass., June 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new report predicts that defective General Motors and Chrysler vehicles sold before the bankruptcies will continue to cause deaths and injuries long after the companies emerge as new entities. Based on data provided by both automakers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,400 Americans will be injured or killed by a defective Chrysler or GM vehicle during the first year of the post-bankruptcy era. The report, "Public Safety at Risk: Bankruptcies Leave Legacy of Defects, Injuries and Deaths," also forecasts fewer recalls for vehicles built by the old companies, decreasing public safety.

The report examines the consequences of a provision in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies which allows the automakers to shed liability for the vehicles built pre-bankruptcy. While both would be responsible for launching recalls and repairing defects in their current fleet, they would not be responsible for injuries and deaths caused by those defects. This leaves thousands of individuals and families who have current claims uncompensated for injuries or deaths caused by defective vehicles. The loophole will also wipe out any future claims.

The report, released by Safety Research & Strategies, finds that between the third quarter of 2003 and the fourth quarter of 2008, Chrysler fielded 3,497 death and injury claims; GM fielded 15,284. These represent an annual average of 636 and 2,779 casualties (individual deaths and injuries) respectively. With more than 40 million vehicles in the U.S. fleet, the two companies accounted for 47 percent of all claims filed against auto manufacturers during that time period. Yet, GM and Chrysler only represent 38 percent of the market share.

"Combined, GM and Chrysler have a disproportionate share of the claims," said Sean Kane, president and CEO of Safety Research & Strategies, "And there is every reason to conclude that the injury and death rates will continue. But the claims will disappear and that will impact the rate of GM and Chrysler recalls and public safety in the future."

From 2004 to 2008, Chrysler issued 109 recalls, affecting 11.4 million vehicles; GM launched 129 recalls, affecting 19 million vehicles. The absence of death and injury claims will likely decrease the number of recalls and remedies GM and Chrysler will conduct after the bankruptcies.

"Automakers and NHTSA use death and injury data to monitor and recall defective vehicles," Kane added. "If the claims aren't filed, we lose an important defect surveillance tool. And if the companies bear no liability for deaths and injuries caused by the uncorrected defects, what incentive do they have to recall?"

The report, which includes a full state-by-state breakdown of claims, finds that Texas, California, Florida, Ohio and New York lead the nation in Chrysler and GM death and injury claims. The states with the least number of claims are Washington, D.C., North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Safety Research & Strategies is a consulting and advocacy firm based in Rehoboth, MA.

To view the full report, go to:

SOURCE Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.