General Motors Co. (GM) has repaired 154,731 cars of the 2.59 million recalled worldwide to fix a defective ignition switch tied to 13 fatalities, according to a memo released by U.S. congressional investigators.
About four months after the recall began, the largest U.S. automaker, has shipped 396,253 repair kits globally, the House Energy and Commerce Committee said today. A lot of the delay has been caused by the need to ramp up factories to make the replacement switches, which GM has said will take until Oct. 4.
Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, who testified before the panel in April, is scheduled to return June 18 to address unanswered questions about why GM waited so long to recall the cars, whose ignitions can abruptly be knocked out of “run,” disabling air bags. Why GM initially accepted an ignition switch that didn’t meet its specifications and why so many employees didn’t consider stalling a safety issue also will be explored.
Barra will be joined by Anton Valukas, the Jenner & Block attorney who this month completed an internal review at Detroit-based GM of what happened. The report showed that multiple GM employees had chances spanning more than a decade to fix the part its designer eventually labeled the “switch from hell.”
The recall that began in February covers six U.S. cars as old as the 2003 model year and as recent as the 2011 model year, including the 2003-2007 Saturn Ion and 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt.
At John McEleney’s Chevrolet dealership in Clinton, Iowa, the service department has replaced about 50 ignition switches and they still have 170 more to go.
“Customers have been really understanding,” McEleney said in an interview. “I’m a little surprised because I thought, with the steady drumbeat and so many recalls, that people would start to think, ‘Boy, there’s a real quality issue here.’ But so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
GM in May had its best month of U.S. auto sales since August 2008, rising 13 percent to 284,694 vehicles. In April, it reported first-quarter net income, despite $1.3 billion in recall-related costs.
McEleney said the recall hasn’t hurt Chevy’s sales or reputation because GM no longer makes the Cobalt or the other models being recalled for the ignition switch. Customers appear to be making a distinction between the cars GM used to build and the higher quality models now in the showroom, he said.
GM rose 1.3 percent to $36.09 at 1:23 p.m. in New York trading. Through last week, the shares had risen less than 1 percent since Feb. 12, the day before the ignition-switch recall was formally announced.
In a May 16 update, GM’s vice president of global safety, Jeff Boyer, said parts production was then running seven days a week on multiple shifts. The switch had been in “very limited production for several years,” he said. Its supplier, Delphi Automotive Plc, was pulling machinery out of storage and finding new suppliers for part components, he said.
Automakers rely on vehicle owners showing up at the dealerships to get the safety repairs done. Recalls involving cars and light trucks historically have had a 77 percent completion rate, according to a 2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis of five years of industry data.
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