| March 17
March 17 General Motors dealers are frustrated
the automaker is not telling them more about the recall of 1.6
million cars after a string of deadly accidents, and many say a
delay of several weeks before a fix is ready is bad for
The company has said that 12 people have died in accidents
related to an ignition switch problem, first observed by GM more
than a decade ago, and the long road to a recall has raised
questions about whether GM is truly a different company after
emerging from bankruptcy.
Reuters spoke with dealers across the nation over the
weekend, and on Monday GM recalled another 1.5 million vehicles
for a different set of issues, including side airbag deployment.
The earlier recall has not yet started in earnest.
Replacement parts to swap out a faulty ignition switch that
could cut off a car's engine and disable its airbags won't be
available until the second week of April, GM said on Monday.
Information that GM knew about the problem as early as 2001
but initiated the recall only last month, coupled with sparsely
worded emails about what dealers should expect and do to solve
the problem, has fueled frustration with the company, several
dealers said when visited by Reuters reporters.
"It does not seem like GM was very forthcoming about this
issue and so it hit us like a thunderbolt," said Al Cerrone, in
the showroom of his family owned Cerrone Chevrolet Buick & GMC
Truck dealership in South Attleboro, Massachusetts. "The feeling
that this was being hidden is what is causing the furor now."
GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, in a new video to GM
employees made public on Monday, promised to change the
company's recall process after "terrible things happened". She
said parts supplier Delphi has added a second shift to get as
many replacement switches to dealers as quickly as possible.
"We are completely focused on the problem at the highest
levels of the company," she said. GM has sent out one set of
letters to recall customers and plans a follow-up when parts are
available in mid-April.
GM also has set up a team of More than 50 employees at its
Warren Customer Engagement Center outside Detroit to provide
more recall information to owners by phone, email and social
GM dealers will receive a more detailed recall service
bulletin the week of April 7, Barra said Monday.
What some dealers and service managers describe as the
company's slow handling of a big problem comes at a particularly
sensitive time. Dealers are hoping that still-low interest rates
and signs of economic recovery would fuel more car sales now
after a long winter weighed on sales in January and February.
Service managers at dealerships from New England to
California said they were told to prepare for a recall weeks ago
but were given no parts or procedures to solve a problem they
expect will take less than an hour to repair, eventually.
Still, the roughly one dozen salesmen and service managers
contacted by Reuters over the weekend said they expect GM to
properly repair the ignition problem on the affected six models,
including the Saturn Ion and Chevy Cobalt.
"Recalls are very common and GM always handles them
expeditiously, so I am confident that GM is working as hard and
fast as possible," said Ray Huffines, who runs Chevrolet
dealerships in Plano and Lewisville, Texas.
Most said traffic on their lots has not been impacted
because of the recall, which they said would be over soon
"This might make some customers a little skittish but I
don't see it having any long term effect," said Dennis Ebenal,
who has worked at a dealer in Ellensburg, Washington for 33
years. "People's memories are very short these days."
"THIS COULD COST YOU YOUR LIFE"
But the deaths and now the delays are feeding into what
several service managers and some potential buyers called a more
negative sentiment that might accelerate, for a time, as news of
the recall spreads.
"When people have died it is no longer a tempest in a
teapot," said Don Kerstetter, who runs a Chevrolet dealership in
Until the replacement parts arrive, GM is advising dealers
to warn customers that heavy key chains could jostle the key out
of place and cause a hazard, a suggestion that has dismayed some
"This is the problem right here," said a shopper at Quirk
Chevrolet in Braintree, Massachusetts, holding up a key chain
with a dangling metal Boston Red Sox logo. "Your entire life is
on here, and this could cost you your life," he said, declining
to give his name.
Although GM has said 12 people died in accidents related to
the malfunctions, industry watchdog Center for Auto Safety has
said that more than 300 people died when airbags failed to
deploy in two of the models recalled. GM called the report "pure
The Justice Department is investigating how the company
handled complaints about the faulty cars, Congress plans to hold
hearings and the National Highway Transportation Administration
is giving the company until early next month to answer more than
100 questions about what lead up to the recall.
The problems drove the company's stock price down roughly 10
percent last week to close at $34.09 on Friday.
"It is concerning that it took this long to catch something
like this," said Tyler Lloyd, sales manager at Rhinelander GM &
Toyota Auto Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. "Any time we see
stuff like this we get very worried," he added, noting however
that a GM representative calmed their fears.
Many managers at dealerships, however, said there has been
no additional contact with the company about the recall beyond
the routine communications. "It seems like the media got ahead
of GM on this one," said John Kitowicz who runs the service
department at Cerrone in South Attleboro. "There were emails and
they were short and sweet, telling us what to tell the customers
about the keys. There has been nothing else."
Asked about dealer frustration with communications, a GM
spokesman referred to Barra's Monday statement.
Last week the first calls began trickling into dealerships
across the country from anxious drivers. Some dealers do not
want to discuss the matter if they do not have to.
"If you don't own that model, you don't need to worry about
it," a service advisor at Quirk Chevrolet in Braintree,
Massachusetts told a reporter, after asking to see the company's
recall letter and to check the car's Vehicle Identification
Number. The man declined to give his name.
Gary Loy, a service advisor at Singh Chevrolet in Riverside,
California said the company had told him no more than what had
been reported in the news.
In Rhode Island, a service advisor at a large dealership
said he is turning away customers because he does not have the
parts to repair the problem yet.
"I am frustrated," the man who said he is not permitted to
speak to the media said, adding, "GM has to step up and do the
right thing and they haven't done that in this case. The
taxpayers bailed them out and deserve better than this."
One immediate solution GM offers customers who are nervous
about their recalled car's safety is to put them into a rental
car, said Steve Hurley, who runs Stingray Chevrolet in Plant
City, Florida and serves as chairman of the Chevrolet National
Dealer Council. "GM is on top of it," he said.
His customers have not taken the company up on the rental
offer but in South Attleboro, Massachusetts five of the 20
callers at Cerrone left in rental cars last week, service
manager Kitowicz said. "The company makes us jump through all
sorts of hoops to rent the customer a car from Enterprise, but
they will pay for it."