By CBS Investigates Intern Nicole Sanseverino
Five children have died across the country since June 2009 after getting trapped in the scorching hot trunks of older-model cars built by General Motors, according to a new report by consumer safety website Fairwarning.org.
The report comes nearly 10 years after the federal government mandated interior trunk releases in all new cars. Cars built before Sept. 1, 2002 are exempt from the mandate, but GM said at the time that it "felt a special obligation to do something" and developed a trunk escape device that could be installed in its older cars. A retrofit kit, which cost $50 at the time, allowed anyone stuck inside a GM trunk to pop it open.
GM designed the trunk release after facing a firestorm of criticism in the summer of 1998 when 11 children died after becoming trapped in the trunks of cars - all of them GM models, according to KidsAndCars.org.
According to the FairWarning report, "a gap has persisted for years between what GM says it is doing about the hazard, and what is actually done." FairWarning discovered that buying the retrofit kits from GM, its dealers or parts suppliers can be difficult, if not impossible. After calling GM's toll-free number, FairWarning was told, "GM doesn't offer any fit for the emergency retro-latch you're looking for." FairWarning also contacted a local parts dealer who reported that the item had been discontinued since 2006.
GM spokesperson Carolyn Markey told FairWarning in response to their investigation, although "there has not been a demand for the kit," some remain at dealerships around the country. "Keeping children safe in and around vehicles is a priority for General Motors."