An investigation by Bloomberg alleges that several car rental companies warned General Motors (GM) seven years ago about a potential defect in their Chevy Cobalt model.
According to the news site, Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc., contacted the manufacturer after a fatal rollover crash involving a Chevy Cobalt occurred in California. The vehicle, rented from Vanguards Alamo unit, rolled over after the driver lost control of the car. Although the driver was wearing his seatbelt, the airbags failed to deploy, which could have contributed to his death.
A Vanguard claims adjuster contacted GM and said it was imperative that the company open a claim and inspect this vehicle for possible defects.
Based on warranty records, letters, customer-service call transcripts and police reports, Enterprise Holdings Inc. also contacted GM about a potential defect. Avis Budget Group Inc. and Hertz Global Holdings Inc. also had Cobalts in their fleets that crashed.
In a March 2005 accident, two people were killed when the driver lost control of a Saturn Ion she had rented from Enterprise. Another passenger survived, but suffered serious brain damage. A police officer attributed the crash to a braking and steering defect.
The following year, a 2006 Chevy Cobalt rented from Enterprise slipped off the road and hit a tree; the driver was killed upon impact and a police report indicated that the airbags failed to deploy.
In both crashes, Enterprise contacted GM and asked for an investigation. In the case of the 2006 crash, the decedents family wanted the vehicle inspected for defects after they realized the airbags had failed to deploy.
Unfortunately, despite extended efforts to gather information about crashes that could be attributed to vehicle defects, including those involving rented vehicles, inquiries from the NHTSA and responses from GM did not provide enough evidence to open a formal investigation.
It is estimated that nine vehicles owned by rental companies are part of the crash files being investigated for airbag failure.
Since GM’s initial recall in Feb. 2014, the company has recalled a total of 30 million vehicles for a number of issues; however, the majority of these vehicles were recalled due to issues with the ignition switch.
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