Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2001   by CARS Magazine

U.S. consumer groups design alternative GM pickup fuel tank

According to the Reuters news agency, U.S. consumer groups have unveiled an alternative fuel tank design for General Motors pickup trucks built between 1973 and 1991 equipped with side-mounted tanks w...


According to the Reuters news agency, U.S. consumer groups have unveiled an alternative fuel tank design for General Motors pickup trucks built between 1973 and 1991 equipped with side-mounted tanks which have been linked to fires in certain types of crashes. Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety criticized GM for trying to thwart plans to market the new tanks. An estimated four million of the pickups made between 1973-1991 are still on the road despite accusations that the 20-gallon tanks mounted outside the main chassis rails can catch fire in certain side-impact crashes.

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety said a $US 1 million research effort, funded by fees paid to plaintiff attorneys in a class action suit against GM, had yielded an independent design for a 19-gallon tank carried inside the pickup’s frame.

“It’s criminal that neither the government nor GM ever recalled these trucks because there is a fix,” Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, told a news conference. She said 1,800 people have been killed in side-mounted tank fires.

GM called the new design plan “engineering malpractice” and has gone to court to stop efforts to market the new fuel tanks using money raised from purchasing coupons sent by GM to owners of the original trucks. GM has characterized the alternative tank marketing effort as misleading and irresponsible. The automaker has gone to court to stop plaintiffs’ lawyers from establishing a resale market in $1,000-off coupons offered by the company to pickup owners toward purchase of a new GM vehicle. GM has settled the class-action suit, and states that the stock tank design is safe.


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