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Feds acknowledge GM dashboard defect, refuse to investigate until someone is hurt, killed

Published: Jan. 7, 2016 at 8:07 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2016 at 11:00 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - After acknowledging the cracking of dashboards in certain General Motors vehicles is likely a design defect, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it would not investigate the defect until it hurts or kills someone.

"The owners of these vehicles have every right to be frustrated, and an argument could be made that the condition constitutes a defect, but not a safety defect," NHTSA spokesperson Kathryn Henry said. "If the agency receives reports and complaints of injury or death, those reports would constitute a safety issue, and the agency may open an investigation."

NHTSA's stance came on the same day Tate County, Mississippi's Kyle Moncrief showed us the new dashboard in his 2011 GMC Yukon Denali. GM offered to cover the $1,000 repair of his cracked dashboard after Moncrief reported the problem to the WMC Action News 5 Investigators. Our initial investigation established a pattern of cracking dashboards in multiple GM makes and models between 2007 and 2011. Complaints to WMC and to NHTSA's SaferCar.gov complaint database indicated the cracks typically appear above the instrument panel or by the passenger-side airbag, just like on Moncrief's original dashboard.

"If something were to happen--I was in a wreck, and the airbag were to deploy--there are shards of dash going through the cab," Moncrief said. "The new dash is crack-free. Hopefully, it will last. They did a good job (yet) they're trying to put a spin on it of 'We're doing good,' but what about the other people out there?"

Alfredia Pollard of Corinth, Mississippi, is one of dozens of GM owners who contacted GM or a GM dealer after seeing our initial investigation. She said GM told her it wouldn't repair or replace her 2007 Yukon's cracked dashboard--again, above the instrument panel and the passenger side airbag--because her vehicle is beyond the manufacturer's warranty.

"It is not just a cosmetic defect. It's a safety issue," Pollard said. "All I want is them to fix it."

WMC Action News 5 was also alerted to a Chevrolet forum in which GM owners posted pictures and video of what appears to be an enhanced, reinforced dashboard "cap" to address dashboard complaints on Yukon Denalis, Chevy Tahoes, Chevy Suburbans, and Cadillac Escalades in model years 2007 through 2011.

We also received an e-mail from an owner of a 2010 Yukon Denali. He claimed GM authorized a prorated repair on his cracked dashboard based on his vehicle's age and warranty status. "They tell me they will pay all but approximately $350 to replace my dash," wrote Richard Mattox of Germantown, Tennessee.

GM's communications managers would not answer our questions about either the dashboard cap or prorated repairs.

"Customers are always welcome to contact their dealer or call our customer assistance centers if they have an issue with an out-of-warranty vehicle. We handle these concerns on a case-by-case basis," GM Product Development Communications Manager Nick Richards said.

GM owners who have the cracked dashboards can file an official complaint on NHTSA's vehicle safety database here.

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