By Ben Klayman
DETROIT, March 12 General Motors Co said
on Wednesday that even after the vehicles in its ignition-switch
recall are repaired, owners should still have only the key and
fob on the key ring.
GM has been telling the owners of the more than 1.6 million
vehicles with the faulty ignition switches linked to 12 deaths
that until the repairs are made only the key should be on the
key ring. That remains largely the case after the fix as well,
according to a document filed with U.S. safety regulators.
"We recommend that customers only utilize the key, key ring
and key fob (if equipped) that came with the vehicle," GM said
in the document filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. That was in response to a question about whether
customers can put their heavy key ring back on after the repair
A GM spokesman said after the repair is completed, there is
no danger of the problem reoccurring.
Automotive research firm Edmunds.com said while there is
anecdotal evidence owners should avoid too much weight on their
key rings, there is no industry standard language on that
GM disclosed how it is answering customer questions related
to last month's recall in a "frequently asked questions"
document filed with NHTSA.
The Detroit automaker also said in the filing that it will
offer loaner cars in some cases and a $500 cash allowance to
unhappy owners affected by the recall.
The problems in the affected vehicles in some instances
allowed the engine and other components, including front
airbags, to turn off while the vehicle was traveling at high
speed. GM previously had said there were 13 deaths linked to the
faulty ignition switch, but revised that to 12 on Tuesday
because it had double-counted one incident.
The failure is believed to be caused when weight on the
ignition key, road conditions or some other jarring event causes
the ignition switch to move out of the "run" position, turning
off the engine and most of the car's electrical components
mid-drive, with sometimes catastrophic results.
GM said in the NHTSA document on Wednesday that it is
providing rental or loaner vehicles in some cases.
The company also said it is not buying back affected
vehicles if owners ask for that, but is offering a $500 special
cash allowance, through April 30, to buy a 2013, 2014 or 2015
"This special cash allowance must be passed on to the
eligible customer at the time of the transaction and is in
addition to other national and regional offers," GM said in the
filing. "The special cash allowance is not transferable and is
intended to assist those customers who are unhappy and may want
to trade out of their vehicle or buy a new GM product.
"GM will not market or solicit owners using this allowance,"
the company added. "We ask that dealers do not market to or
solicit these customers either. This special cash allowance is
not a sales tool; it is to be used to help customers in need of
On Tuesday, a source said federal prosecutors have opened a
probe of GM, examining whether the company is criminally liable
for failing to properly disclose problems with some of its
vehicles that led to the recall.
The federal probe by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan adds to
a growing list of U.S. authorities examining the recall, which
GM announced in February. NHTSA previously opened an
investigation into whether GM reacted swiftly enough in its
Also on Tuesday, Reuters reported that a U.S. Senate
committee chairman is seeking a hearing on the issue. The U.S.
House Energy and Commerce Committee also ordered GM and NHTSA to
turn over information about GM's ignition-switch problems.
GM declined to comment on news of the criminal probe, but
has said it is cooperating with regulators and Congress in their
The automaker is also conducting an internal investigation
into the matter.
GM faces a fine of up to $35 million from NHTSA, and several
analysts have estimated the recall could cost the company $70
million to $280 million.
The automaker has not disclosed what the recall will cost.
Analysts agreed that the biggest costs could come from lawsuits
likely to result from the recall and probe.