A lawsuit filed on Wednesday in federal court in California is the
first to name Continental, a subsidiary of German automotive
supplier Continental AG <CONG.DE>, in a growing wave of litigation
over GM's recall, which has so far encompassed 2.6 million vehicles.
Continental made airbag systems for the recalled cars, including
sensors that determine if and when the airbags go off in an
accident, according to the suit.
The case is among dozens of proposed class actions that have been
filed by customers accusing GM of concealing its knowledge of the
defect for more than a decade, putting plaintiffs at risk of injury
and causing them to suffer economic losses on their cars, including
lower resale value.
If jostled or bumped, the ignition switch can change from the "run"
to "accessory" position, shutting off engines and disabling power
steering, power brakes and airbags.
The California lawsuit says that Continental's system was defective
because the airbag system would shut off when the key switched
positions, and the combination of alleged defects was "particularly
dangerous", the complaint said.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Adam Levitt of Grant & Eisenhofer, said
that Continental appears to have known about the ignition defect as
early as 2005, after it met with GM to investigate a crash involving
a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.
"Continental did nothing to redesign its airbags so that they would
deploy even if the car's power went out, nor did it warn NHTSA (the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) or the public,"
Levitt said in a statement Thursday.
The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
David Friedman, told a congressional panel earlier this month that
NHTSA investigators were surprised to learn that airbags in the
recalled GM cars did not deploy when the key is in the accessory or
off position. He said his agency was conducting an industry-wide
look at the computer algorithm which is programmed into the airbag
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Continental said on Friday that it had not seen the suit so could
not comment on its details.
"Our systems meet global technology standards and entirely fulfill
the exact specifications of our customers," the company said in an
A spokeswoman told Reuters on April 7 that it is a "global
industry practice that the airbags do not deploy if the ignition is
in the off position."
GM spokesman Greg Martin declined to comment. The company has
previously apologized for the switch problems and said it is working
to replace the faulty parts.
Continental is not the first GM supplier to be drawn into litigation
over the recall. Delphi Automotive <DLPH.N>, which produced the
ignition switch, is a defendant in several lawsuits, although it is
not named in the Los Angeles case.
The case is Saclo v. General Motors, U.S. District Court for the
Central District of California, No. 14-604.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; additional reporting by Eric
Beech in Washington and Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt; editing by Ken
Wills and Jason Neely)
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