Chalk up a victory for General Motors in one of the lawsuits filed against the carmaker alleging cracked, bent, or warped rims on certain C7 Corvettes, including 2015-19 Z06s and 2017-19 Grand Sports.
In the suit, the owner of a 2018 Z06 had charged that GM has known about the alleged problem of warped rims but concealed information even as Corvette drivers continue to file complaints.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California – Nardizzi, et al., v. General Motors LLC.
The Corvette owner says that he bought his Z06 from a GM dealer, then took it directly to a third-party auto shop to have the rims coated by a third-party wheel finisher who alleges in a video that the rims were already bent by then. The owner says he then had to pay $7,500 for replacement wheels from a third-party and asked that GM cover the cost under warranty. After steady complaining by the owner, GM finally agreed to pay $1,200 of the $7,500, even though a judge later pointed out that the warranty requires any repairs to be requested by the owner and then completed at a Chevrolet dealership.
In response to the suit, GM filed a motion to dismiss for several reasons, including the argument that the plaintiff never stated a plausible claim.
While the Corvette owner alleged that GM sold and leased cars “with wheels that were defective, requiring repair or replacement within the warranty period, and refusing to honor the express warranty by repairing or replacing, free of charge, the wheels,” GM responded that the owner failed to allege any defect in materials or workmanship, as opposed to a defect in the design. GM says its warranty applies to “any vehicle defect, not slight noise, vibrations, or other normal characteristics of the vehicle due to materials or workmanship during the warranty period” and claimed that the defects actually covered are clarified by the key phrase, “due to materials or workmanship.”
Judge Carmac J. Carney agreed with GM that its warranty applies to any defect due to materials or workmanship during the warranty period but not to defects involving “slight noise, vibrations, or other normal characteristics of the vehicle.”
To qualify for breach of express warranty, the judge said a plaintiff has to allege the defect is due to materials or workmanship but he said the Corvette owner instead alleged that the wheels suffered from an inherent defect and were defectively designed.
The judge also dismissed a breach of an implied warranty claim, explaining that under the Song-Beverly Act, a plaintiff has to allege a fundamental defect rendering the product unfit for its ordinary purpose. In this case, he said the plaintiff failed to allege his car had a persistent defect that couldn’t be solved through repair or replacement of an isolated component.
Carney dismissed other claims alleging deceptive practices and fraud, saying that the plaintiff failed to allege GM had knowledge of the alleged Corvette rim defects before he bought the car. “To successfully allege a manufacturer was aware of a defect, a plaintiff is typically required to allege how the defendant obtained knowledge of a specific defect prior to the plaintiff’s purchase of the defective product,” the judge said.
While the Corvette owner alleged that GM had to know about cracked wheels based on complaints made to the government and other forums, Carney said 30 of the complaints had been filed after the plaintiff bought his Corvette. Only 11 customer complaints had been made before his purchase, with some of those suggesting driver errors or road conditions were to blame for the cracked, bent, or warped rims.
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