WASHINGTON — General Motors Corp. faces a class action suit regarding tires on Pontiac GTOs, model years 2004-2006, that allegedly are too big for the vehicles and might fail as a result.
The class action was filed May 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
"The tires on each of the subject vehicles wear unevenly and prematurely and are prone to failure because the tires are oversized for the subject vehicles, causing the inside front tires to graze the struts during normal operation and use," the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the 2004-2006 GTO was built on the same platform as the Holden Monaro, a model manufactured by GM´s Australian subsidiary.
In Australia, the Monaro was equipped with 17-inch wheels and tires that were 235 millimeters wide, the complaint states.
In America, the wheels were also 17-inch, but the tires were 245 millimeters wide, which caused the rubbing problem.
A GM spokesman declined comment, except to say the company was aware of the class action.
"It was a typical GM blooper," said Clarence M. Ditlow III, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "They wanted to make the car look more macho, so they gave it bigger tires without checking to see if they were appropriate for that model."
Plaintiffs´ attorneys led by Mark Anderson, of the law firm of Kemnitzer, Anderson, Barron & Ogilvie L.L.P. in San Francisco, seek unspecified damages for the class of GTO owners, plus attorneys´ fees.
Anderson said the case is still in the information gathering stage with no preliminary certification hearings scheduled as yet.
Back in February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a preliminary evaluation of the alleged GTO tire-strut problem. At that time, NHTSA said it had received 69 complaints on that subject, including seven reports of tire failure of which one ended in a crash.
The agency sent GM a letter in March, requesting information on consumer complaints, field reports, crash and injury reports, fatality reports, property damage claims and lawsuits related to the GTO tire-strut issue. The GM spokesman said the company responded in May, but NHTSA has not posted GM´s reply on its Web site as it usually does with documents related to recalls and defect investigations.
An NHTSA spokesman said the GM reply hadn´t yet been reviewed for posting on the agency´s Web site, and the GM spokesman said it is company policy to have all its government submissions released by the agencies in question.
Neither the class action nor the NHTSA documents mention any tire makers or brands of tires. Anderson said there are no plans to name any company other than GM as a defendant in the case.