In one of the year’s biggest recalls to date, General Motors (GM) has issued a massive recall of Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana Cutaway vans. The manufacturer is recalling more than 174,000 vans produced between 2002 and 2023 for fire risks related to the circuitry.
Cutaway vans are significantly less common than standard consumer vehicles like SUVs, trucks, and crossovers. As such, this massive recall affects a significant proportion of all Cutaways that Chevrolet has sold since 2002. Owners should take care to understand the fire risks these vans pose and how they are protected under California law.
Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana Fire Risks
The Cutaway van is designed for commercial use in a wide variety of industries. As such, it intended to be modifiable by retailers or purchasers. The vehicles recalled by GM come with additional wiring in the rear of the vehicle to permit the installation of optional heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. While the flexibility of the Cutaway line is generally beneficial for owners, this wiring in particular has been found to cause fires.
Specifically, the wiring includes an otherwise unused circuit to power potential HVAC units. When shipped to retailers, this circuit is unsealed for easy installations. However, if it is not sealed, natural exposure to humidity will cause it to corrode. As the circuit is still connected to the rest of the van’s electrical systems, the corrosion can cause sparks and fires.
In December 2022, GM chose to investigate two fires connected to 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Express Cutaway vans. The investigation highlighted the risk these wires may pose, and connected at least four additional fires to the issue. However, no injuries have so far been tied to the defect.
GM will be mailing recall letters on May 22nd, 2023. Owners of affected vehicles will be able to bring their vans to certified General Motors dealerships to have exposed circuits sealed once they receive their letter.
Is Your Chevy or GMC Affected by the Recalls?
Only GMC Savana Cutaway and Chevy Express Cutaway vans have been shown to have these specific fire risks. The majority of Cutaway vans are found in commercial contexts as opposed to in personal use. As such most private owners of GM vehicles do not need to worry about this particular recall.
However, some Cutaways are used by individuals for a variety of purposes. If you own a Cutaway made in 2002 or later, you should take caution when driving or leaving the electrical systems running until you determine whether your van is affected.
What Types of Vehicles Do Lemon Laws Cover
The Cutaway recall raises a unique question – could owners of these vans file lemon claims for their defective vans? The answer to that is more complicated than many realize.
There are two types of lemon laws that apply to motor vehicles in the U.S.: state and federal. Federal laws cover a wider variety of vehicles, but provide fewer protections, while state laws cover fewer types but provide greater protection.
For example, federal warranty laws cover all vehicles that come with a written warranty, including commercial vans. In contrast, California’s lemon laws only cover new motor vehicles that are purchased by individuals for personal or household purposes, or by businesses with five or fewer registered vehicles under 10,000 lbs. Additionally, California does not subject motor homes, motorcycles, of vehicles intended to be used off-highway to lemon laws.
As such, some, but not all, Cutaway vans could be covered under state lemon laws. The gross weight of the 2014 Express comes in at 9600 lbs, just under the 10,000 lbs cutoff. Any of these vans that meet the weight limit and are owned by individuals or businesses with five or fewer registered vehicles could be eligible for lemon claims.
How Long Is Your Vehicle Covered by Lemon Law Protections?
GM’s van recall also highlights an important question about lemon eligibility: how long are vehicles protected under warranty laws? These types of claims are tightly tied to warranties, which only last a few years. Clearly, vans from 2003 are unlikely to be considered lemons under this definition.
In California, there is a four-year statute of limitations attached to lemons. This means that you have four years from the date you first experience covered problems to file your claim.
This period is in addition to the warranty itself. California law defines lemon-eligible manufacturer defects to be those that meet the following criteria:
- The problem substantially affects the vehicle’s safety, utility, or value
- It first occurred within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of lease or ownership
- The manufacturer failed to repair it within a reasonable number of attempts
This means that you have at most five years and a half years to file your claim, if your vehicle first demonstrated the problem at the end of the 18-month period. As such, GMC and Chevy vehicles under eligible ownership that were first purchased in 2019 or later could be eligible for a lemon claim in 2023.
Talk to the Experts About Your Lemon
Lemon laws are complicated. If you own a recent GM vehicle that’s always in the shop for manufacturer defects, you could have the option to request that they refund or replace it. However, you need to confirm that your vehicle meets the state’s requirements or you may be wasting your time. The experienced lemon law attorneys of Johnson & Buxton – The Lemon Law Guys can answer your questions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our firm if you have any concerns about your vehicle. Email or call our office today to learn more about your options for your defective GM vehicle.