Stalling problem with Chevy HHRs?

May 13, 2009 5:48:31 PM PDT
Loretta Barnes says she drives around Raleigh in fear. "I'm scared. It's going to die and somebody's going to hit me in the back," she told Eyewitness News referring to a stalling problem she says she had with her 2007 Chevy HHR. "It happens around Raleigh. It happened in Roanoke Rapids. It stalled on the train track in Roanoke Rapids."

Barnes told investigative reporter Steve Daniels that the car died when she least expected it.

"It stalled on the train track?" Daniels asked.

"It stalled on the train track," Barnes replied.

"It's always a bump that makes it die?" Daniels inquired.

"No, not necessarily a bump - even sudden stops sometimes," said Barnes. "It is frustrating. I'm going pull out my hair."

Barnes has the service records to show she had the problem checked out five times at White's Chevrolet in Roanoke Rapids. But she says the dealer never found out why the car stalled.

An Eyewitness News investigation revealed other consumers have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alleging the same type of problem with the Chevy HHR. There are 22 complaints in all.

NHTSA said it is aware of the problem and is monitoring it closely.

Tom Lacek is a mechanical engineer who specializes in investigating vehicle failures. We asked him to look over the NHTSA documents.

"My stand is it is a problem and it is solvable. It is really a matter of putting in the effort to do it," he said. "The potential for a tragic event goes up with this kind of problem."

Lacek said he believes General Motors should thoroughly investigate why the Chevy HHRs are allegedly stalling. He said that could mean driving the cars for several days while watching every move with a flight recorder - trying to recreate the stalling problem.

"Diagnostics are not complicated, but diagnostics must be systematic," he explained.

Eyewitness News contacted GM about the problem. It told us it does not comment on investigations in progress.

"Keep in mind that when you are dealing with hundreds of thousands of vehicles, there are going to be scattered problems. The question is, is there a defect that can and should be fixed with a recall or other action," said a spokesperson.

GM also urged Barnes to get her HHR towed to the nearest Chevy dealership the next time it stalled.

"To me it is insufficient, 'Well it stalls. We can't find it. Take it back. Let us know if it does it again,'" Lacek offered.

After Eyewitness News got involved, GM contacted Barnes and offered her a special deal to put her in a new car.

"I really thank you from the bottom of my heart - ABC, Channel 11, Steve Daniels, the whole team. Ya'll have been great," said Barnes.

But Barnes said she's still concerned about the problem and she's suing GM under the federal lemon law. She also said she has a message for the car company.

"You need to recall this. I'm scared someone is going to have to die in order for you to recall this car," she told Daniels.

GM told Eyewitness News that it's sorry it couldn't solve Barnes' stalling problem. It said it tried to work with the customer to resolve the problem, but is happy to hear she is in a new vehicle and happy about that part of the outcome.


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