Calif. judge to rule on GM settlements for coolant suits
General Motors could owe millions of dollars in repair claims and other
fees if settlements of two class-action lawsuits are approved in a
California state court.
The suits involve Dex-Cool engine coolant. GM has used Dex-Cool since
the 1995 model year.
Thousands of customers allege in the lawsuits that the coolant failed to
protect corrosion of V-6 engines in more than 30 models of cars and
light trucks from the 1995-2004 model years. The suits also allege that
Dex-Cool forms a "rusty sludge" in the vehicle cooling systems, causing
coolant leaks. These problems led to engine failure in some cases.
In a hearing scheduled Aug. 29, a California Superior Court judge in
Alameda will rule on whether to approve or dismiss the class-action
suit, which affects customers in 49 states. The only state not included,
Missouri, has its own hearing scheduled on Sept. 5.
GM would owe up to $800 in cash reimbursements for repairs to current
and former customers who owned or leased the select vehicles. An
estimated 20 million customers are covered by the settlement, according
to court documents.
The customers eligible for reimbursements have until Oct. 27 to submit a
Under the settlements, GM would be forced to pay up to $27 million in
attorney fees and expenses and in incentive awards to several customers
that initially brought the suit.
GM also would be responsible for all costs to give notice of the
settlement, including direct mailings and advertisements in nationally
circulated magazines and newspapers. An estimate for those costs was not
disclosed in court documents.
A GM spokeswoman declined to comment about the proposed settlements.
GM said when it debuted Dex-Cool that the coolant lasted five years or
150,000 miles, almost twice as long as conventional coolants.
In April 2003, two cases were filed in California and Missouri courts. A
three-week jury trial was scheduled for November 2007. One week before
the scheduled trial, the plaintiffs and GM agreed in principle to a
According to court documents, GM argued that customers neglected
maintenance instructions for the vehicles, which caused the alleged
problems with engine or cooling systems.
Dex-Cool, which Texaco made for GM, was bright orange. The color
differentiated Dex-Cool from conventional coolants, which are green.
GM took this and other measures in an effort to prevent customers from
mixing Dex-Cool with other coolants. Underhood labels cautioned "Use
Dex-Cool Coolant Only." And GM added a supplement to its 1995 owner's
manual to alert consumers and service technicians.
While the automaker denies the allegations, it agreed to settle certain
repair costs customers paid during the first seven years or 150,000
miles of vehicle ownership or lease, whichever came first.
Under the settlement, customers are eligible for a $400 reimbursement if
a repair related to Dex-Cool was made within five years. If the repair
cost more than $1,500, the reimbursement would be for 40 percent of the
cost of the repair, up to $800.
If a repair was made within six years after vehicle delivery, a customer
is eligible for up to $100. A customer is eligible for up to $50 if the
repair was made in the seventh year. The settlement allows owners who
made multiple repairs to apply for multiple repayments.
Eligible repairs, models involved
The following repairs are eligible:
1. Replaced lower intake manifold gasket on model years 1995-2003, with
3.1- or 3.4-liter V-6 engine in:
• Buick Century, Rendezvous, Regal, Skylark
• Chevrolet Impala, Lumina, Malibu, Monte Carlo, Venture, Corsica,
Beretta, Lumina APV
• Oldsmobile Alero, Cutlass (Supreme and Ciera), Silhouette
• Pontiac Aztek, Grand Am, Grand Prix, Montana, Trans Sport
2. Repairs caused by engine coolant sealing issues on model years
1995-2004, with 3.8-liter V-6 engine in:
• Buick LeSabre, Park Avenue, Regal, Riviera
• Chevrolet Camaro, Impala, Lumina, Monte Carlo
• Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, Intrigue, LSS, Ninety-Eight
• Pontiac Bonneville, Firebird, Grand Prix
3. Repairs caused by cooling system sludge on model years 1995-2000,
with 4.3-liter V-6 engine in:
• Chevrolet Blazer, S10
• GMC Envoy, Jimmy, S15
• Oldsmobile Bravada