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GM problems now at 13.1 million recalls; appears to be circling wagons

With General Motors facing a total of 13.1 million recalls so far this year – a new US record – the company appears to be using its standard bag of tricks to circle its wagons while announcing to the world “we're going to get to it.”

Tricks in GM's goody bag

As the number of recalls grows, the country's number two automaker has begun its usual litany of announcements to keep potential buyers from noticing nothing has been done yet. About the only thing that has been done is GM has taken write-downs of about $2.1 billion for the last several quarters.

(author's note: A write-down is an automaker's way of saying I have paid or will be paying $X for repairs to these cars. They can then be used as tax deductions.)

Another of GM's little goodies is silence. They make an announcement of a recall and then you don't hear about it again until someone points it out and either takes it to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or they head to the nearest federal district courthouse and a judge to order action.

More goodies

Another old favorite of General Motors is the recommendation that customers make early appointments with the service area of their dealer. As Al Adler told the Associated Press last week, an appointment should be the first step because it will ensure them an early place in line when parts become available. AP also indicated that the GM expected to have at least the 2.4 million vehicles involved in the ignition recall repaired by Oct. 1.

Dealers interviewed by news organizations indicated that though the first recall letters were to have been sent out by GM in April that at the end of May neither the letters nor the parts were available for the recall.

An unapologetic apology

General Motors CEO Mary Barra, former vice president of global manufacturing engineering, stood before Congress in April and apologized for the problem and then indicated to a House committee that she would personally look into the problem to assure that it was being handled correctly. She also indicated that the automaker would take care of the problem promptly, assuring the lawmakers that the company was on top of it.

In truth, it looked like it was a script being played as Barra had indicated the automaker – now facing a 13.1 million-car recall – had the parts and plans in place to take care of those vehicles involved in the recall:

  • The 2003-2007 Chevy Cobalt

  • The 2003-2007 Chevy HHR

  • The Pontiac G5 (no longer manufactured)

  • The Pontiac Solstice

  • The Saturn Sky

  • The Saturn Ion

A lawmaker who attended the hearing where Barra made the promises indicated that though the words were right, the automaker had provided no evidence that it had either sent out any required recall letters nor had it indicated that the parts needed to make the fix were in place, though Barra, made a huge point of indicting they were.

See your dealer's service area in a what?

If you are old enough to remember hearing the old ditty about “Seeing the USA in your Chevrolet,” then you probably have seen a sea change in the way GM handles its service. For example, the automaker has promised that it will provide those whose cars are recalled with “free rental recall cars” as alternative transportation. Unless GM is handling the rental fee – which it may or may not as it is still not clear – you end up paying for your own transportation. Or you may end up paying for there rental and eventually GM will reimburse you. This is not the way the GM of the 1950s or 60s would have handled the problem as it was rather proud of its products and provided loaner cars to customers.

GM is also indicating that it will have the problem fixed for 13.1 by the October deadline and said the cars are perfectly safe to drive – even though it had finally acknowledged that 13 people had died due to the ignition recall.

A Texas GM customer disagreed and has filed suit to ask a judge to order all GM cars involved in the recall grounded until the company was absolutely sure the fix would work, the Associated Press has reported.

And, in another recall...

And, in another 2.4-million vehicle recall, General Motors has recalled:

  • The Buick Enclave

  • The Chevrolet Traverse

  • The Chevrolet Malibu

  • The Cadillac Escalade

  • The Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup

  • The GMC Sierra HD pickup

The recall is for a variety of fixes and raises to 29, AP reported, the number of recalls in which GM products are involved.

It's also interesting to note that while GM has dropped to the number two automaker worldwide, losing the number one spot to Toyota, it has surpassed any other automaker in the number of recalls it faces this year. By comparison, AP reports, Ford had had only 1.4 million cars recalled during the same time period while Toyota has had only 2.7 million vehicles recalled.

Last-minute addition

In a last-minute addition to the number of recalls GM faces, AP reports, that 218,000 Chevy Aveos had been recalled due to possible fire problems.

Right now, this is not the time to be looking for a GM franchise.