Documents: GM knew of safety problems
February 14, 1998
Oldsmobile station wagon engulfed in flames after being rear-ended, which ignited the fuel tank
Web posted at: 10:58 p.m. EST (0358 GMT)
From Correspondent Ed Garsten
HOLLYWOOD, Florida (CNN) -- Documents potentially damaging to General Motors could come to light at a trial centering on the safety of the automaker's fuel tanks, sources told CNN Saturday.
In 1981, an Oldsmobile station wagon waiting at a toll booth was rear-ended by a trailer. Its fuel tank ruptured and exploded, killing 18-year-old Shane McGee and a relative and injuring four other people.
A suit filed by McGee's family is being tried in Hollywood, Florida. GM lost a similar suit in 1993.
GM so far has fought but lost its bid to keep certain internal documents that could hamper its defense.
Already revealed at the trial is the so-called Ivey report, written by GM engineer Edward Ivey in 1973.
In the report, Ivey developed a calculation based on the annual number of fuel-related fatalities, the cost of a fatality and the number of GM vehicles on the road.
Ivey concluded that it would cost GM just $2.20 per new model automobile a year to prevent a fuel-fed fire in all accidents.
Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said: "General Motors concluded that there were about $2.40 worth of deaths each year, spread out across all cars. Unless they could keep the price to less than $2.20, it wasn't worth it to General Motors to prevent those burn deaths in General Motors vehicles."
Two people died and four injured because of ignited fuel tank
CNN has learned that next week, more GM documents are expected to be opened in court reportedly showing that GM chose not to spend the money to prevent the fuel-fed fatalities.
"We're confident those documents will show that GM management relied on it to keep lifesaving technology out of cars and hundreds of Americans have burned to death because of GM's callous disregard for human life," Ditlow said.
Both parties in the suit are under a gag order and cannot comment in the case. In a published report, GM said safety always comes first in designing cars.