GM still needs to fix more than a million vehicles
Nine months after General Motors announced the massive ignition switch recall, more than one million vehicles have yet to receive the necessary repairs. This represents about half of the 2.6 million affected.
GM first reported the vehicle recall in February, citing keys that could turn from the “on” to “off” or “accessory” position when bumped or jostled. The detent plunger, a spring just a few millimeters short, is to blame for the deaths of at least 30 individuals.
Initially, GM attributed 13 deaths and 33 accidents to the faulty ignition switch, an error it knew about for more than a decade. After opening the compensation fund in August, almost 200 death claims have been submitted with 30 confirmed by attorney and overseer Kenneth Feinberg.
Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims the vehicles are still safe to drive, GM is trying to reach all owners by any means possible. Social media messages are being sent from the automaker. For those less technology-inclined, a call center is staffed with 72 employees with the sole purpose of reaching the unengaged audience. Additional measures are taken through an analytics company, placing targeting advertisements on popular websites for those who haven’t responded.
If owners have their cars fixed or at least taken to a dealership by January 1, they receive a gift card from GM. Owners can choose from $25 to Starbucks, Red Robin, AMC movie theaters, Walmart, Amazon, Bass Pro Shops or Applebee’s.
This push is too little, too late for the unfortunate 30 who lost their lives after years of negligence from GM. Many drivers are still waiting for an available time slot to have their cars fixed at the dealership. In some cases, drivers are told the cars are fixed but still experience problems.
In early October, this confusion led to the death of Brittany Alfarone.
Brittany’s mother, Diedre Betancourt, purchased the car in March. After doing some research, Ms. Betancourt talked to two dealers, one who refused her and another who said the car was already repaired. Brittany and her mother first noticed a problem with the vehicle a few weeks before the fatal auto accident when the car unexpectedly shut off in the middle of traffic.
A driver behind Brittany the night of the accident noticed her car swerving and had the sense she had no control over the vehicle.
When the ignition shuts off, a vehicle is essentially powerless. Power brakes, steering and airbrakes are gone, leaving the driver almost defenseless. In some cases, it’s possible to steer or stop the car and then restart the car. For others, it’s a deadly fight with a vehicle in traffic or on wet roads.
The damage to Brittany’s car was so severe that the black box may be compromised, but her injuries are consistent with a victim whose airbag didn’t deploy.
If you drive a GM vehicle, make sure you’re safe. Visit http://www.gmignitionupdate.com for the latest updates and to check your car model.
- Jeff Bennett, “GM deaths linked to faulty ignition switch remain at 30,” The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 3, 2014). [Link]
- Mervin Backman, “GM offering $25 gift cards to people who fix recalled cars,” CNN Money (Nov. 5, 2014). [Link]
- Diego Rosenberg, “General motors reaches out to ‘unengaged audience’ with campaign,” GM Authority (Nov. 3, 2014). [Link]
- Rebecca R. Ruiz and Hilary Stout, “Recalled G.M. cars remain unrepaired,” The New York Times (Nov. 3, 2014). [Link]