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OTHER VOICES: GM dealers will do a lot of recall repairs, but not all of them

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(Crain News Service photo)
Jamie LaReau

By Jamie LaReau, Crain News Service

DETROIT (April 30, 2014) — I have joked with some auto dealers that they’re prophets.

That’s because they had made predictions that ended up being spot on.

Now some General Motors Co. dealers’ predictions could be right again.

Many GM dealers said they do not expect to repair all—or even close to all—of the millions of recalled GM vehicles.

That’s because many car owners never receive a recall notice, or if they do, they throw it away or forget about it, dealers said.

Despite recall notices and media attention, about 30 percent of recalled vehicles never get fixed, said Chris Basso, public relations manager at Carfax Inc. in Centreville, Va.

Last year, 3.5 million used cars listed for sale online had unrepaired recall work, Mr. Basso said.

But this time, I thought things would be different. GM is recalling nearly 7 million vehicles worldwide for various reasons. The most serious is the widely publicized recall of 2.6 million small cars with faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths.

Given the publicity and seriousness of the problem, I believed most consumers would heed GM’s recall notices. After all, two U.S. senators want the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to force GM to warn owners of the cars recalled for the faulty ignition switch to stop driving the vehicles until the repairs are made.

But as I was getting my hair cut this past weekend the stylist asked me what I did for a living. I told her and she immediately quizzed me on “that GM recall.”

She said she drives a used late-model Chevrolet Cobalt. She told me that she was unsure if her car had been recalled, so she called the previous owner to ask him. He told her he believed it was recalled for some minor repairs, she said.

“Are you going to take it to a dealership?” I asked.

She said she was not too worried about it, so “probably not.”

I tried to convince her to be safe rather than sorry and get the car checked.

But her enthusiasm for my suggestion was lukewarm at best.

Her apathy supports those GM dealers’ latest prophecy: No matter what, some consumers won’t take their recalled cars in for repair.


Jamie LaReau covers the automotive retail beat for Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business. This piece originally appeared as a blog on the magazine’s website.

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