A group of Corvette owners who like their hot wheels say General Motors is the reason they – and their big ticket rides - can’t stay cool while driving.
In a class action complaint filed Oct. 30 in federal court in Chicago, Peter Jankovskis, of Lisle, and Jonathan White, of Hackettstown, N.J., said three model year versions of the GM Corvette Z06 overheat within 15 minutes on a race track, putting the cars into “limp mode” characterized by drastically reduced speed and power, which can create dangerous situations while racing on a track.
“Despite its claims that the Z06 is made for the track,” the complaint states, “GM chose to equip the Z06 with a defective cooling system. This defect manifests in the ‘track’ car’s inability to withstand the demands of race track driving.”
The men say GM sold more than 30,000 Z06s marketed from 2015- 2017 for between $80,000 and $120,000. The plaintiffs said “Z06 forums and GM customer service files are replete with complaints from consumers who reasonably believed that their Z06 would in fact be fully track-capable.” Yet these drivers now say their cars run at such high temperatures that overheating can actually warp engine components.
The complaint alleges GM was aware of the defect, saying it halted production in 2016 to find a solution and then attempted to correct the problem in the 2017 model by using a new hood with larger vents and a new supercharger cover. Not only did that not fix the overheating, they said, but GM still hasn’t offered a retroactive solution to people who bought 2015 and 2016 models, which they argue is a violation of warranty terms.
“GM cannot shift its warranty obligations onto its customers,” the complaint stated. “If the Z06s need a different cooling system to actually perform as advertised, then GM should retrofit the cars with these components on its 2015 and 2016 models as well as fix the 2017 model to allow the car to perform as promised. Additionally, GM should address and remedy the problems to the engine, transmission, drivetrain and other parts that occur as a result of these unintended overheating issues.”
Material to the plaintiffs’ argument is GM print and online advertising using the phrase “track proven” and highlighting various components specifically used in racing settings, as well as video of a factory race team member driving a Z06 with automatic transmission on an Atlanta track. They say they were denied the benefit of a bargain, paid a premium for vehicles they would not have but for the advertising, and also paid for repairs that shouldn’t have been needed if the cars performed as expected.
In addition to GM advertising, the complaint cited owner’s manual sections on using the Z06 on a closed race track as well as online postings and a lengthy comment Corvette Chief Engineer Tade Juechter offered on Feb. 22, 2015, discussing the problem. The men say it cost more than $20,000 to make the cars actually “track proven” and doing so puts owners at risk of violating express warranty terms. That the defect now is common knowledge also hurts the resale value of 2015 and 2016 Z06s because they don’t have the safety features that come standard on a 2017.
The class would exclude anyone who already has a personal injury claim related to driving a Z06. The complaints allege violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, fraudulent concealment, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and unjust enrichment. In addition to class certification and a jury trial, the plaintiffs want the court to force GM to stop selling the Z06 as presently constituted, to initiate a recall or free replacement program or offer buybacks, including restitution, plus punitive damages.
Representing the plaintiffs, and seeking to serve as putative class attorneys, are the firms of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, with offices in Seattle and Chicago; Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, of Coral Gables, Fla.; and Schuler, Halvorsen, Weisser, Zoller & Overbeck, of West Palm Beach, Fla.