Published on April 21, 2014

New system, but no quick fix for GM

By Jamie LaReau, Crain News Service

DETROIT (April 21, 2014) — When General Motors Co. last week unveiled a new way for auto dealers to order parts needed for the ignition-switch-triggered recall of 2.6 million vehicles, it reminded dealers of a hard truth: They’ll be waiting for parts — and placating impatient customers — at least well into the autumn.

The new ordering system is designed to give replacement ignition switches, cylinder locks and keys a high priority in GM’s parts-ordering system. But dealers don’t know how many parts they’ll receive, or how soon.

“It’s going to take a couple of weeks until we see how these things turn around and what the lag time will be between the time we put in the order and they deliver the parts,” said Jim Stutzman, owner of Jim Stutzman Chevrolet-Cadillac in Winchester, Va.

“I foresee that it could be well into the fall before we get through these recalls, based on the number of recalls and the availability of parts,” he said.

GM said it began shipping repair kits on April 11 that contain an ignition switch, an ignition lock cylinder, two keys and two key rings. Car dealers are to replace the lock cylinder and switch and cut and code the key during a single service visit.

Under the new ordering system, dealers must send GM the vehicle identification number of each recalled car that is ready to be repaired. GM will then expedite the shipping of required parts — when they’re available — for that car.

GM “wants no margin for error on who’s been done and if the repair is complete. Their intentions are good, but again the $64,000 question is, ‘When do the damn parts get here?’” said Jim Paul, co-owner of Valley Automotive Group in Apple Valley, Minn.

Mr. Paul is paralyzed in planning for service hours and staffing. “How do I schedule [extra hours] today if I don’t know where the parts are?”

GM CEO Mary Barra said last month that the process of repairing the recalled vehicles would last until October. But that was before GM added faulty lock cylinders to the recall on April 10.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said he didn’t know whether that additional work would extend repairs past October. “We’re working to ensure that we stay as close to that as we can,” he said. He could not immediately say what company is supplying the lock cylinder and keys.

Second, third lines

GM has said that it’s working with switch supplier Delphi to have three assembly lines churning out parts. But as of last week—nearly one month after Ms. Barra first disclosed that the company was bringing on a second switch-assembly line—GM executives said the second line was not fully operational.

The third line is “coming,” Ms. Barra told Automotive News Editor Jason Stein during an on-stage interview at an automotive conference hosted by J.D. Power and the National Automobile Dealers Association last week in New York.

GM safety chief Jeff Boyer told Detroit radio station WJR-AM last month that the company expects to have 1 million replacement parts to dealerships by the end of August.

GM product chief Mark Reuss said in New York that the company is working with Delphi to increase production and get parts to dealerships as quickly as possible.

“Don’t think that we’re going to sit around and do nothing while we make these until we get the perfect amount to get out there,” he said.

Last week, Virginia dealer Mr. Stutzman received enough parts to fix eight vehicles. But he has 22 cars still on his lot waiting for repairs while owners drive loaner cars. He said GM’s new ordering system will make it easy for his staff to order parts and prioritize repairs, but worries it will slow down the time it takes to receive parts to fix a car.

“Based on how recalls always work, when parts became available, they were shipped to us in quantities to best take care of the numbers dealers had,” Mr. Stutzman said. “Now it’ll all be individualized, and I can’t help but think it’ll take more time.”

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Reporter Mike Colias contributed to this report, which appeared on autonews.com, the website of  Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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