Chevy Settlement Case – What Should We Make of This Case?

When you read blogs about Chevy, you’ll often discover that some of them reference the recall, which was placed onto the vehicles manufactured by this particular company. But there’s one element of that recall that many folks feel is a little frivolous, and which is that of the electronic key logger device which allegedly hacked into the car’s computer in order to track the contents of the car’s onboard computer. There’s even an audio recording which purportedly proves that this occurred! But what’s really funny here is that this whole episode was supposedly the fault of GM. GM claimed that it conducted a “full review” of its systems prior to placing the recall on the cars, in order to determine whether or not that particular device actually caused the hacking. Now, that’s a pretty strong statement, because – let’s face it – who’d really know what was going on in the car unless GM did?

That brings us to the subject of the Chevy lawsuit itself. The complaint in this suit is on behalf of Richard Oppenheimer, a retired engineer for GM. Oppenheimer suffered a stroke while visiting his daughter’s college dorm room last spring, at which time he realized that something was wrong with his daughter’s car: namely, that the garage doors were open when he got in it. He claims that he discovered the problem with the doors after losing his balance on the stairs as he was attempting to enter the vehicle and felt something “grabbing” his leg. According to his attorney, this incident caused Oppenheimer a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to recall certain events.

So, what about the computer in question? GM claims that this was a nenative security device which was installed by an employee in order to monitor the car’s activities in the garage as it was driven away from the dealership. In other words, it was supposed to be a bug. The fact that no bugs were found does not address whether or not the security device in question was properly maintained or not. It does mean that it should have been removed at the end of the warranty period.

If it was not properly removed then it is probably a good idea to have it replaced, as it was most likely intended to remain in place. However, if it was, as the company now argues, an unnecessary security device, which only served to increase fuel consumption due to its annoying chirp, it is obvious that it was a design error, as the side rails should have never been designed to be a nuisance, especially when you consider that the roof is quite high off the ground in GM’s parking lot. If they had been designed to serve this purpose, perhaps they would have come up with something like a retractable top, which can be closed during daylight hours and rolled up during nighttime to protect your car. Now we wait for a trial. You can bet that there will be lots of lawsuits.

Now GM has also addressed the issue of rear cargo tanks by introducing a new design in the Chevy Spark. Instead of being a bulky steel mass, it is now an aluminum “super tank”, which is in fact a very nice piece of engineering. It adds some useful rear cargo space (and GM engineer Donny Schmitz did a fine job of designing it), it reduces ground clutter, offers more passenger safety, and provides more efficient gas mileage. So yes, in terms of GMVs, having a rear tank is unnecessary, but if you drive the car long enough, it’s nice to have.

On a final note, let me say that although the parties involved in the Chevy Settlement Case have already settled the case, they are going to appeal the denial of their claim. Why? Because the judge in the case ordered a new trial, and the plaintiffs want to present evidence that the factory caused them to be late on work because their cars were so loud, etc. Basically, it’s another case, and it’s one that I don’t think the lawyers will win, at least not in the near future. In my mind, this whole case has been pretty unnecessary, and I’ve heard from a few lawyers that it looks like the plaintiffs may have already received their short end of the stick.

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