Many General Motors (GM) customers affected by the company’s ignition switch recall are too spooked to drive their vehicles, afraid that they could become the next victim of a defect that could suddenly shut down the engine and all safety systems, including the airbags.
Owners of the 1.6 million vehicles affected by the defect will receive a letter from GM formally notifying them of the recall, what repairs are proposed, and the timeline for a fix. The automaker expects parts to start arriving at dealerships nationwide next month, but because so many cars are involved, it could take several months for all affected vehicles to get the required repair. GM has said it could take until fall to finish replacing or modifying ignition switches in all of the vehicles.
In the meantime, GM is telling drivers to drive with just the single vehicle key in the ignition and remove any key rings, chains, additional keys, and key fobs that are attached. According to GM spokesman Jim Cain, “That will make the vehicle safe to drive and address the concern. It seems to have been influenced by the weight of the key.”
However, many GM drivers have received little comfort in that advice and are turning to dealerships for help. Some dealerships say that drivers are parking their vehicles on the dealership lot, refusing to drive them again until the repair is made.
Many others are demanding GM dealerships provide rental cars – a request that corporate headquarters says it wants to meet, but one that local dealerships are finding tough to honor.
In one case, a resident of Ketchikan, Alaska, turned to Twitter to get help from GM after getting nowhere on the phone.
“@GM your agents keep telling me to take my car to a GM dealer for the recall, after I’ve explained I live on an island in Alaska! Help!!!!” Laura Munhoven tweeted on March 13.
She exchanged a series of messages with GM’s social media team and ultimately the company agreed to ferry her Saturn Ion 300 miles to Juneau and back for the repair at a cost of $600. GM also provided her with a rental car while her Saturn is serviced.
Ms. Munhoven’s request is one of about 9,000 GM said it has received and that it intends to honor all of them, but it is a logistical challenge for GM and its dealerships to fulfill all the demands. The company also has to take special measures to find rental vehicles for college-age drivers and others too young to rent cars.
GM said it is also adding staff to its call center to help reduce the time customers must wait for help.
Most of the recalled vehicles are in the U.S. Models affected by the ignition switch recall are:
- 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt
- 2007 Pontiac G5
- 2003-07 Saturn Ion
- 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR
- 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice
- 2007 Saturn Sky