GM is late delivering ignition switch fix to dealers

Tim McLaughlin
GM is late delivering ignition switch fix to dealers

By Tim McLaughlin

(Reuters) - General Motors Co is running two days behind Chief Executive Mary Barra's plan to begin shipping replacement ignition switches in its massive recall, dealerships and the company said on Tuesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also said on Tuesday that GM had missed an April 3 deadline to respond to the agency's request for information about the recall. GM said it was cooperating fully.

The automaker, which recalled 2.6 million vehicles including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and other models, said no parts to dealerships had been shipped as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Executive Mary Barra had said in an online video that GM aimed to get the parts out by the beginning of this week.

"Our plan is to have parts at the dealers on April 7th," Barra said in a video about the recall, which will last several months.

Spokesman Greg Martin said GM still expects to begin shipping parts sometime this week but confirmed none had been shipped yet. "What Mary should have said is the week of April 7th," Martin said. He did not know the date of her video.

GM dealerships for weeks have been fielding calls from customers who are anxious to get their vehicles fixed.

"(The phones) just keeps ringing," said Ed Brunton, service director of Bryner Chevrolet in suburban Philadelphia. "We're staying pretty busy with it."

GM recalled the vehicles because ignition switches can unexpectedly turn off engines during operation and leave airbags, power steering and power brakes inoperable. The company has linked 13 deaths to the defect.

"We get about 100 inquires a day by phone" about the GM recall, said Jim Sowers, owner of Jim Butler Chevrolet in suburban St. Louis. "Nobody has contacted us screaming and yelling."

Sowers said his dealership has hired three new people to handle the extra volume of calls about the faulty ignitions.

Scott Fitzgerald, service director at MacMulkin Chevrolet in Nashua, New Hampshire, said he was unsure how long it would take to fix the vehicles of his customers.

"I can't answer that," Fitzgerald said. "There are a lot of vehicles."

In a letter to GM on Tuesday, NHTSA said the company had not answered more than a third of the 107 questions the agency asked as part of its investigation into why the automaker waited until February to order a recall, when it first learned of problems with the ignition switch more than 10 years ago.

GM responded that it had "fully cooperated" with the agency, delivering nearly 21,000 documents covering more than 271,000 pages related to the safety recalls.

"We will continue to provide responses and facts as soon as they become available and hope to go about this in a constructive manner," GM said in a statement said. "We will do so with a goal of being accurate as well as timely."

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Dave Warner, editing by Peter Henderson)