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Recall repair backlogs at GM dealerships could last through mid-2015


  Brynne Belinger is frustrated.  Really, really frustrated.

In June, Belinger found out her 2009 Impala was among the millions of cars being recalled by General Motors, many of them for ignition switch problems. 

But when she called her local dealership, she was told she'd need to wait until GM sent her an official notice of the recall. 

That letter didn't arrive until October.

Belinger called her dealership, only to receive more bad news.

"They're hoping they will get the part in four to six weeks, but what they've found is it's taking more like six to eight weeks.  And once they get the part in, it will take between two to four weeks to get me in for an appointment."

GM says vehicles with ignition switch problems can be safely driven as long as only the key is in the key ring -- no heavy objects, no extra house keys, etc., on the ring.

Belinger, a manager at Western Michigan University,  isn't buying it. 

"Honestly, I feel like I'm driving a ticking time bomb."

Belinger's dealership is DeNooyer Chevrolet in Kalamazoo.  Manager Ben Dykstra responded in an email to the issue of backlogs:

We’ve hired additional staff and expended great effort in drafting new processes, both in our call center and in the shop, to maximize our ability to perform recall repairs. The cost of these additional staff is an expense the dealership has taken on voluntarily in an effort to better serve the needs of our customer base. While GM pays for the actual repair, they do not contribute to the additional resources required to perform the repairs in a timely manner.
We can perform 20-30 recall repairs in a day, but the calls sometimes come in at a rate of 40-50 a day. As of today, we have almost 1,000 customers with appointments scheduled for a date in the future, and about 1,500 more in the cue that still need to be scheduled. We’re currently booking appointments about 10-12 weeks in advance. The manufacturer wants the repairs done as soon as possible to mitigate further liability, and the dealerships are performing repairs as quickly as possible in an effort to get back to business as usual. It’s not really the fault of anybody in particular, but with so many affected vehicles and only a certain shop capacity, the simple math works out to a pretty significant wait time.

The problem is widespread.  Shaheen Chevrolet in Lansing dealership has a backlog of about 27,000 recall repairs. 

Managers there don't expect to get back to a normal level of recall repairs until mid-2015. 

And they say what used to be good news is now bad news.

A customer might come in for a recall repair, and say, "why don't you replace the tires while you're at it?  And throw in an oil change."

Once a welcome source of extra revenue, those requests now mean it will take longer to get to the next long-waiting recall customer.

Meanwhile, General Motors is dealing with an ironic problem with the first ignition switch recall, issued in late January.

That's the recall of 2.6 million Cobalts, HHRs and other small cars with defective ignition switches.  GM delayed the recall for ten years.  The defect is linked to numerous deaths.

GM says about 800,000 people who own the cars have not called a dealership at all.

The automaker is now offering those owners a $25 gift card as an incentive to get them to make an appointment.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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