Why the Problems Won’t Go Away When the Old Chrysler and GM Do

About 3,400 individuals will die or be injured in a General Motors or Chrysler vehicle due to an automotive defect in the companies’ first year post-bankruptcy, according to a new analysis conducted by Safety Research & Strategies

SRS has released its report, Public Safety at Risk: Bankruptcies Leave Legacy of Defects, Injuries and Deaths as part of its ongoing efforts to highlight the plight of the victims of the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies. Under the terms of each automaker’s transition from their old, debt-burdened incarnations to their liability-free future entities, hundreds of pending death and injury claims will be eliminated. But the latent – and in some cases, well-known, but never resolved – automotive defects will continue to manifest themselves in the 40 million GM and Chrysler vehicles built before Chapter 11, which remain in the U.S. fleet.

Chrysler’s average annual number of death and injury claims in the reporting period is477, resulting with an average of 636 casualties per year (casualties are individual deaths and injuries). For General Motors, the average annual claims rate is 2,171 with an average of 2,779 casualties per year. The average combined casualties per year, for both companies, is 3,415. These claims can be expected to continue at the same pace, resulting in approximately 3,400 new casualties each year during the next couple of years, the report says.

The bankruptcies’ termination of consumers’ rights to redress will likely exacerbate these problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automakers rely on death and injury claims to detect defect trends. If these claims are not filed, NHTSA and GM and Chrysler will lose an important surveillance tool .And, while both companies will be responsible for launching recalls and doing repairs, there will be fewer safety recalls for vehicles built by the old GM and Chrysler:

“If neither company is responsible for the past and future claims involving 40 million vehicles, few will file death or injury claims. If death and injury claims data do not reflect the status of real-world problems on the road, safety is compromised. And, if GM and Chrysler no longer bear the liability for uncorrected defects, the automaker has few motivations to fix the pre-bankruptcy problems.”