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GM Recall Distrust Trickles Down To Dealers


The General Motors recall now includes another defect. On top of faulty ignition switches, GM also says it's also going to replace ignition lock cylinders. The issues affect more than 2 million older GM cars. The cylinders may loosen the ignition key, causing crashes or rollaways. As Brian Bull of member station WCPN reports, dealers are doing their best to keep their customers calm.

BRIAN BULL, BYLINE: Outside Spitzer Chevrolet in Northfield, Ohio, more than half a dozen recalled vehicles wait outside the service area. These include certain makes of the Cobalt and HHR. Like at many GM dealerships, staff here have been cast in the role of therapist for anxious owners of the recalled makes.

STEVE SEMINATORE: Not that we've had any issues here locally, but there's always a fear factor.

BULL: That's service manager Steve Seminatore, who's taken a steady flow of calls from troubled customers. Beyond replacing the parts and offering rental cars, he says there's little direction from GM as to what else dealers can do to appease customers. Seminatore's dealership is considering offering a 27-point-safety inspection once the parts come in. But he says he feels trapped between customers and the carmaker.

SEMINATORE: We're supposed to have all the answers and be the scientific wealth of all knowledge, and we have no information. So I'm kind of at a loss for everybody. I'm at a loss for General Motors. I'm really at a loss for the customer.

BULL: Other dealerships appear to be in a similar bind.

GARY SMITH: It is very frustrating.

BULL: Gary Smith is service director for Joe Firment Chevrolet in Avon, Ohio. His legal tablet's covered with names of customers wanting new parts. All are driving rental cars in the meantime.

SMITH: Probably at least two dozen and adding daily. It is a safe brand but this is a valid concern.

BULL: For its part, Smith says his dealership's matching GM's $500 allowance to drivers affected by the recall who are willing to trade in their car.

DEBORAH DROSSIS: This notice is sent to you in accordance with the National Traffic and Motor Safety Act. General Motors has decided that it...

BULL: That may not placate some affected car owners, like Deborah Drossis. She's in her kitchen, reading her GM recall notice.

DROSSIS: 2006-2007 HHR. That's what I have.

BULL: Drossis has an accordion folder labeled stalls, which she's kept since buying her car. It documents performance issues, including the now infamous ignition switch issue, which she says took service reps forever to figure out.

DROSSIS: I felt like they were patting me on the head, OK, little girl, we're listening to you but we're not finding the same problem, so you must be imagining it.

BULL: Drossis says she'll never buy another Chevy. And for GM, that's not good news. Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, says dealers and GM appear to lack a joint plan to appease upset customers.

KARL BRAUER: It's tough to say exactly what the best procedure is here because you're talking about a lot of people and a lot of cars.

BULL: Some customers like Stacie Taylor are finding their brand loyalty severely tested. She owns a recalled Chevy HHR but hasn't heard anything promising from her dealer yet.

STACIE TAYLOR: No one has said anything to me about any accommodations, any perks, anything. The only thing I heard was, very sharply, we will call you when we get the parts available.

BULL: Still, Taylor says she's always driven Chevys and doubts she'll switch, though that may all depend on what GM does from this point forward. For NPR News, I'm Brian Bull in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Bull