BOSTON -- General Motors sells tens of thousands of cars annually to many big rental car companies.Rental Cars Bought, Resold Without Standard Safety FeatureTeam 5 Investigates discovered GM allowed these fleet buyers to save money by eliminating an otherwise-standard safety feature: side airbags."We see different things removed from cars for fleet buyers, but this is a new level," said Sean Kane, an auto safety expert. "We've never seen a standard safety feature removed as a delete option for a fleet. That is unheard of, and it's something that should never have happened."Specifically at issue: 2006-2008 Chevy Impalas and 2008-2009 Chevy Cobalt and Buick LaCrosse models. GM listed side airbags as standard equipment, but Team 5 Investigates discovered, GM gave rental car companies an option to buy cars without side airbags, and many did.Kane said it saved companies about $175 per vehicle."To remove a standard safety feature for such a nominal savings is unheard of," Kane said. "This is a new level -- a new low, really -- for General Motors."And it's not just with rental cars. Team 5 Investigates discovered some of those cars were then sold to private citizens as used without disclosing the side airbags were missing.
Some cost saving measures are just too costly. Side curtain airbags are tremendously important since they can prevent severe head injuries in side impact collisions. We need MORE cars with side airbags, not fewer.
For all the damage the Governments "Cash for Clunkers" initiative may have caused our auto industry, one positive side benefit is the mass removal of older cars that do not have side impact protection (SIPS). We usually expect new safety techonologies to become mainstream in 11 to 15 years, but cash for clunkers may have accelerated the process a few years by taking so many older cars off the road. For Government General Motors to have taken SIPS out of fleet vehicles is reprehensible and inexcusable. In all fairness, no evidence suggests that GM had been taken over by the goverment when these modifications were made.