Consumer groups have been pressing for an investigation for some time, charging that General Motors pick-up trucks built between 1973 and 1987 are prone to explosion in accidents because of the position of their side-mounted petrol tanks.
General Motors welcomed the NHTSA investigation, saying it would move the fact-finding process away from what it termed the 'sensationalised, wildly exaggerated charges of the last few weeks'.
'Recent experience has demonstrated that the media is not the appropriate venue in which to investigate and resolve such a complex technical matter,' the car maker said in a statement.
GM added that 'some people may feel that, given the facts, it is regrettable to undertake such a costly and time- consuming process at this critical time for the agency, the industry and the economy.
'However, we at General Motors fully understand the agency's need for more time to review the available data, and we welcome the seriousness with which it is conducting its inquiry.'
The investigation will include looking at rust and corrosion on the pick-up trucks, which some consumers have contended make the tanks more prone to rupture on impact in older vehicles.
The investigation comes at a difficult time for General Motors, which is in the midst of a restructuring involving tens of thousands of lay-offs as the car giant struggles to improve its competitive position in the cut-throat US automobile industry.
A recall of trucks would be extremely expensive, and significantly add to GM's problems. The NHTSA investigation may take several months before a decision is made either to recall the trucks or give them a clean bill of health.Reuse content