General Motors reportedly has been hit with its biggest lawsuit so far over serial recalls, brought on behalf of drivers of 27m vehicles wanting over US$10bn in compensation for fallen car prices.

Steve Berman, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told Bloomberg News by email the would-be class action against GM seeks to represent owners who bought or leased a recalled car from July 2009 to July 2014 and still have it, or sold it after mid-February when the recalls started, or had an accident that destroyed it after that date. Over 20m customers could join the suit.

The complaint, filed on 14 October in federal court in Manhattan against 'New GM', as the carmaker became known after its 2009 bankruptcy and government bailout alleges GM spurred the price drops by hiding at least 60 serious defects in around 27m vehicles sold in the US, according to the Bloomberg report.

"New GM repeatedly proclaimed that it was a company committed to innovation, safety and maintaining a strong brand," the filing said. "The value of all GM-branded vehicles has diminished as a result of the widespread publication of those defects and New GM's corporate culture of ignoring and concealing safety defects."

Hundreds of individual car-price complaints against GM were combined in two separate class actions, Bloomberg added, citing a web post by Berman, of the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

The report said the larger suit concerns cars made after the bankruptcy. A smaller one, focused on ignition switch faults in cars made before the bailout, may be curtailed by a bankruptcy judge’s ruling next year on whether older claims for accidents and economic losses are allowed. GM has asked the judge to rule that his earlier orders, which enabled the US to rescue the stumbling company, bar most of the claims over old cars.

According to the suits, 2010 and 2011 Chevy Camaros lost $2,000 in value as a result of recalls. The price drop of the 2009 Pontiac Solstice is $2,900.

GM told Bloomberg in an e-mailed statement it would "vigorously defend against plaintiffs' claims that GM vehicles have reduced resale value."

The number of fatalities tied to the ignition-switch defect has more than doubled from initial company estimates, based on the latest data from the automaker’s compensation program aimed at settling rather than fighting such suits.

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