Quadrajet's fuel inlet plug. On October 19, 1965, the Oldsmobile Division incorporated a production four-point staking operation to secure the fuel inlet plug in place. A final production revision was incorporated for all Quadrajet carburetors on March 28, 1966. This design change involved a spinning operation and rolled zinc casting of the carburetor body over the edge of the fuel inlet plug.
Motor Vehicle Safety (Owners)
(21) Serena Mangus owns a 1966 Buick Riviera. On June 19, 1974 the vehicle's engine compartment caught fire. Pulling over to the side of the street, the car burst into flames. At first, Mrs. Mangus could not get out of the car. She tried to undo the seat belt, but could not. She also failed to get out the passenger side of the car. In this attempt, Mrs. Mangus hit her wrist and arm. Finally, jumping from the car, she hit her head. Afterwards, she reported experiencing blurred vision in the left eye. Mrs. Mangus' Buick was damaged in excess of $ 1,100.
(22) Mary Denham formerly owned a 1966 Buick Riviera. During the summer of 1974 the engine compartment caught fire. She jumped out of the car as fast as she could. The fire lasted 10 or 15 minutes. The Buick Riviera was totalled.
(23) James Feick, owner of a 1966 Buick Riviera, experienced an underhood fire in April of 1973. Stopping the car, Mr. Feick proceeded to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Mr. Feick singed his eyebrows and hair in attempting to extinguish this fire.
(24) Catherine Roat was a passenger in a 1966 Chevrolet Caprice during an engine compartment fire which occurred in April of 1972. Her husband pulled the car over to the side of an expressway overpass. The passenger's door could not be opened since it was up against a freeway bridge railing. After the occupants got out of the car through the driver's door, they stood along the freeway bridge trying to keep out of traffic.
(25) Sharon Barr, driving a 1966 Buick Riviera, experienced an underhood fire during July of 1973. Mrs. Barr ran from the car. The Fire Department arrived and put out the fire. Damage to the Buick Riviera included a shattered front window, burned front tires and wiring. The vehicle was totalled.
(26) Wanda Sharp experienced an engine compartment fire in a 1966 Chevrolet Impala during December of 1973. The vehicle was extensively damaged.
(27) Sally Flippen, as a passenger in a 1966 Chevrolet Caprice, experienced an underhood fire in November of 1971. The car, both interior and engine compartment, burned almost immediately. The vehicle was totalled. All the seats were charred, the whole inside of the roof was charred.
Motor Vehicle Safety (Studies)
(28) In California alone, approximately 100 people per year are killed as a result of vehicle disablement whether they remain in the vehicle or walk to get assistance. Vehicle disablement Study, April 1974, prepared for NHTSA, U.S. Department of Transportation.
(29) On the Interstate System approximately 3.5 per cent of all vehicle collisions involve parked cars on the shoulder of the highway. "Fatal Accidents on Completed Sections of the Interstate Highway System, 1968." Public Roads, Vol. 35, No. 10, October, 1969.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Based on the foregoing, the Court determines as its Conclusions of Law the matters set forth below:
(1) The Safety Act defines a "defect" as "any defect in performance, construction, components, or materials in motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment." 15 U.S.C. § 1391(11). The Government makes out a prima facie case of "defect" by showing a significant number of failures in past performance.
Where, as here, the component is designed to function without replacement over the lifetime of the vehicle, the Government may discharge its burden of showing a significant number of failures without any showing of cause.
United States v. General Motors Corp., ("Wheels"), 171 U.S.App.D.C. 27, 518 F.2d 420, 427 (1975).
(2) The Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, manufactured prior to March 28, 1966 and installed on 1965 and 1966 model year Chevrolets and 1966 model year Buicks, constitutes a "defect," as revealed by a significant number of failures of the carburetor's fuel inlet plug in past performance. See United States v. General Motors Corp. ("Wheels"), supra, at 438, n. 84 (1975); United States v. General Motors Corp. ("Pitman Arm"), 65 F.R.D. 115, 117-118 (D.D.C.1974).
(3) As a matter of law, the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, therefore, "is subject to a significant number of failures in normal operation." United States v. General Motors Corp. ("Wheels"), supra, at 427.
(4) Since General Motors "does not intend to further litigate the 'defect' issue in response to the Government's Motion or during future stages of this case" (Defendant's Brief, p. 3),
and the undisputed facts establish that the Rochester Quadrajet carburetor constitutes a "defect," no material issue of fact exists as to the number of fuel inlet plug failures and engine compartment fires which may occur in the future.
(5) "Motor vehicle safety," as defined by the Safety Act, means:
(T)he performance of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment in such a manner that the public is protected against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring as a result of the design, construction or performance of motor vehicles and is also protected against unreasonable risk of death or injury to persons in the event accidents do occur, and includes nonoperational safety of such vehicles. 15 U.S.C. § 1391(1).