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Pickup Suit Settlements Okd Only to End the Matter, GM Says

July 06, 1996|From Associated Press

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. agreed to settle lawsuits involving pickup trucks to end the matter, not because the trucks are unsafe, the auto maker said.

"We feel it is time to bring this issue to a close . . . because it is the fair thing to do for our customers who have heard and read so much misleading, erroneous information about these trucks for several years," GM lawyer Lee Schutzman said Thursday.

Critics contend the side-mounted gas tanks on GM's 1973-86 C-K trucks and 1987-91 R-V trucks are fire hazards in side-impact crashes. Most trucks' tanks are mounted in the middle of the frame to protect them.

A Louisiana judge on Wednesday tentatively approved the deal, which would settle several national class-action lawsuits and others in Louisiana and Texas. He scheduled a Nov. 6 hearing about granting final approval, which is not expected until January at the earliest.

The settlement would require GM to give truck owners $1,000 certificates toward the purchase of any new GM car or truck except a Saturn.

Plaintiff lawyers estimate 5 million truck owners would benefit, making the settlement worth $5 billion.

But GM spokesman Ed Lechtzin disputed that number, saying it is not clear how many of the certificates would actually be used. GM does agree that at least 5 million of the pickups--or half the number built--are still on the road, he said.

"It is a figure someone yanked out of the air. How many of these [certificates] will actually be used? You can't say how much it's going to cost GM. We don't have any cost out of our pocket," Lechtzin said.

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