Downgraded Tow Capacity Leads to Lawsuit for GM

2014 GMC Sierra 1500 denali-crewcab-front-view-towing

Think of all the numbers you have to compare when shopping for a truck. You’ve got engine displacement, horsepower, torque, transmission speeds, fuel economy, gear ratios, cargo capacity, and, of course, towing capacity.

Not all of those numbers are relevant to all truck shoppers. Some guys just need to handle an occasional Home Depot run, while others need to routinely max out their rig’s tow capacity.

The guys and gals who buy trucks based on how much they can tow put a lot of trust into the fact that the ratings are accurate. Tow ratings are based on the amount of torque it takes to launch from a stop, keep a trailer going at speed, and slow it to a stop within an acceptable distance.

Obviously some dangerous situations can arise if a truck tows more weight than intended. But what happens if an automaker advertises a high tow rating, sells trucks based on that rating, and then revises it downward later?

The Truth About Cars ran a story that goes like this:

A California man sued General Motors this month for revising its tow ratings for his 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 5.3-liter V-8, which meant he couldn’t tow his toy-hauler and golf cart, according to court records.

The complaint, which was filed Dec. 11 in Central California’s district court, said General Motors intentionally misrepresented its claims for Richard Quintero’s truck, which he purchased in July 2013 for nearly $47,000.

According to Quintero’s attorneys, the man opted to buy the 2014 truck because its advertised tow rating of 8,800 pounds was significantly higher than the 2013 model’s 6,900 pounds. GM lowered the 2014 trucks’ ratings to 6,800 pounds in a letter to owners, which was less than Quintero’s 1,000-pound golf cart and 6,700-pound trailer.

This is definitely a problem. But the problem gets worse.

The lawsuit claims that GM knew about the lower rating based on internal tests, but chose to market the higher number to stake claim to the tow-capacity crown. That’s a serious allegation, and a single $5 million class-action suit against GM representing other owners is likely to be filed.

I think the lesson here is to buy a vehicle that’s overkill for what you need. If you need to tow 8,700 pounds of trailer, don’t buy a rig rated with an 8,800-pound tow capacity. Step up to the HD version that can safely tow 10,000 pounds or more. That way, even if the rating gets downgraded later, you’ll still know you’re safe.

What’s the most weight you’ve ever towed?

-tgriffith

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