Dealers Say GM Making Right Moves in Recall

Retailers doing fixes on recalled vehicles say customers don’t appear upset.

Joseph Szczesny

March 24, 2014

4 Min Read
GM dealers on front line of recall
GM dealers on front line of recall.

As General Motors prepares for the recall of more than 3 million vehicles, its dealers around the country hope for the best and predict the automaker’s efforts to confront the issue are helping minimize consumer anxiety surrounding the issue.

“GM is stepping up and doing the right thing by putting customers in loaners,” notes Rick Alpern, general manager of Keyes Chevrolet in Van Nuys, CA.

GM is providing loaners to the owners of the Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and Pontiac G5s covered by the recall while their own cars are awaiting repair.

“We're storing their cars,” he says.

GM has notified dealers the replacements for the flawed ignition switches won't be available until the first week in April.

“I haven’t heard of anyone who has been really upset, at least not at this dealership,” Alpern says, describing GM’s efforts as “pretty impressive.”

Motorists in Southern California seem to understand recalls are not uncommon and come with owning or leasing a car. Toyota has just finished recalling thousands of vehicles in California.

“We've had a couple of people come in and ask for loaners,” says Dan Johnson, general manager of Len Lyall Chevrolet of Aurora, CO, outside Denver. The dealership also is a certified Saturn repair center.

Some of the vehicles affected by the recall have been removed from the dealership’s used-car inventory.

“I did take a couple of used Cobalts off the lot and parked them out back,” Johnson says. The used models now are in storage, awaiting the necessary repairs.

Overall, the general public reaction has been muted, Johnson says. “It's been kind of a non-event.”

He’s heard no owner complaints about the cars at the center of the controversy prior to GM’s February announcement it was recalling the 1.6 million of them.

Steve Rayman, owner of Steve Rayman Chevrolet in Smyrna, GA, outside Atlanta, has owned several different franchises over the years. That includes one that participated in the Ford-Firestone tire recall in 2000, a controversy involving vehicle rollovers.

GM has quickly put procedures in place to deal with any problems, stemming from its recall, he says. “They told us to put everybody in loaners and they would pay, which is the right thing to do,” Rayman says.

Most customers understand recalls sometimes are necessary, he says, adding, “We’re all trying to defuse the issue.”

GM has moved swiftly to address problems, says Stan Michaels, general manager of Daniels Chevrolet in Tampa, FL. “All in all, they seem to be on top of it.”

Adds Dan Schwebke, general manager of Ron Westphal Chevrolet in Oswego, IL, outside of Chicago: “GM has stepped up.”

GM has asked dealers to refer anxious customers directly to the automaker’s customer-relations staff in an effort to reassure them, he notes.

However several contacted dealers decline to discuss the recall, which might suggest at least some of them are uneasy about the unfolding controversy.

GM announced last month it was recalling a total of 778,562 Chevrolet Cobalts from model years ’05-’07 and Pontiac G5s, from model year ’07. The recall later was expanded to include ’03-’07 Saturn Ions and the Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac Solstices and Saturn Skys from model years ’06-’07. GM no longer produces any of the vehicles.

Other models affected are the ’05-’06 Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada and the ’07 Opel GT sold in Europe. In all, 1.6 million vehicles are  suspected of containing the defective switches.

Records compiled by the U.S. government indicate ignition failures in GM vehicles can bring affected vehicles to a complete stop, resulting in fatal injuries.

GM also has announced the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles built more recently for a variety of repairs including Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana Cadillac XTS, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse and Saturn Outlook.

The most serious issues appear to be in the Enclave, Acadia and Outlook CUVs, which will require repairing or replacing wires leading to the seat-mounted airbags.

GM CEO Mary Barra has appointed a veteran engineering manager, Jeff Boyer, to serve as internal safety czar to oversee recalls and defect investigations. 

“The appointment of Jeff Boyer to the new position of vice president of global vehicle safety is another indication of how seriously General Motors and CEO Mary Barra are in dealing with the safety recalls that have recently engulfed the company,” says Jack Nerad, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

“GM wants to send a strong message that this is not business as usual. Instead, it signals the company is changing its ways in identifying and dealing with potential safety issues.”

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