Last year I had a GE with the following symptom:
The pilot lead, which is routed around the burner unit (dumb), got so hot that it failed, turned into gray dust, developed a hole that caused the pilot light to go off. Gas was leaking from the hole, creating a dangerous situation.
GE sent a replacement burner assembly, but I stopped installing GE-Rheem heaters. Since then, I've been installing BW, Smith and American.
The problem with water heaters now a day is that you can get a lemon from any of the above manufacturers.