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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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GM Cars that Remain Unrepaired Can Turn Deadly

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Have you received a recall notice for your General Motors (GM) vehicle? Since February 2014, the company has recalled nearly millions of vehicles, yet according to the New York Times, as of November 3, 2014, almost half of those have not been fixed.

If you haven’t received a letter, you can still check the company’s website to see if your car has been recalled. Simply enter your VIN in the search box and the site will give you the details. GM notes that some people with cars that need to be repaired may not have received a letter because the vehicle specific information “may not have been available at the time of the announcement” of each recall.

It’s not just missed communication, however, that may be causing the missed repairs. The Times article notes that even owners “who requested repairs months ago have been waiting, with dealers managing wait-lists….”

Those wait-lists can be deadly, as potentially illustrated by a recent accident that killed a 25-year-old woman. According to NBC News, the woman’s mother, Dierdre Betancourt, had attempted to get the car repaired twice, but was turned away by over-scheduled dealers. Investigators are looking into the accident now to see if it may have been related to the ignition switch defect, as the car was a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt that was included on the recall list.

GM Slow in Getting Parts Available for Repairs

GM says it’s stepping up its efforts to contact consumers. They’ve established a new call center and hired over 70 employees just to contact those who haven’t yet had their cars repaired. They’ve also increased efforts via social media to get the word out.

Might it be “normal” for many people to ignore the recall alerts, say, if they have an older car on which they feel the repair would be useless? Though repair on older cars is less likely than on newer ones, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that usually, 75 percent of vehicles are repaired over a time frame of about 18 months. GM is lagging behind that level so far.

GM was slow to make the replacement parts available—the first repairs didn’t begin until two months after the February recall was announced. Indeed, many of the letters GM sent to consumers noted that the parts wouldn’t be available until some future date, requiring consumers to keep track of when they could take their cars in. In the meantime, many consumers have no choice but to continue driving the affected cars. Perhaps they own only the one car, or have no other alternative for getting back and forth to work.

Cars Without Repairs May be Deadly

Betancourt learned about the ignition switch defect in her daughter’s Cobalt shortly after buying the car for her. She telephoned one dealer about the repair and was told they wouldn’t repair it because she had bought it after it had been through an accident. The second dealer told her the car had already been fixed.

She believed the second dealer, thinking the issue had been resolved. But then she and her daughter were driving in busy traffic when they hit a bump in the road. The car suddenly lacked power, the ignition switch having shut off. It was only a few weeks later that Betancourt’s daughter was involved in the deadly accident. The investigation is ongoing.

GM did offer loaner cars for consumers waiting for repairs, but some dealers had no spare cars to give out. Dealers also report being hard-pressed to keep up with the high demand for repairs. Some argue that consumers should be advised to park their cars until they are repaired, but GM already blocked an order that would have required them to do that.