Ashley Hoer dropped off her 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt last week at Gregg Young Chevrolet for repairs, part of a nationwide recall of General Motors vehicles with faulty ignition switches.
Hoer hasn't had any “shut-off” problems with the car, but the Elkhorn-area resident isn't taking any chances: “I have a 1-year-old, and I'm not going to continue to drive it.”
Replacement parts to fix the ignition switch won't be available from GM until later this month, but the Omaha dealership is contacting customers via postcards and email and advising them to bring their vehicles in now, said Pat Lund, the dealer's service director.
“We'll store the vehicle here and give them a free loaner until their car is fixed,” Lund said.
The lag time could result in many owners of recalled vehicles driving rental cars for several weeks or more. “They told me I'll probably be driving my rental for a month,” Hoer said.
GM, which is picking up the rental fees for the owners of recalled vehicles, is working with the three largest U.S. rental car companies — Enterprise Holdings, Hertz and Avis — to ensure that there will be enough loaners.
Meanwhile, the number of recalled vehicles continues to climb.
Last Friday, GM expanded its ignition switch recall, “out of an abundance of caution,” to include another 824,000 U.S. vehicles, on top of the 1.6 million already recalled in February.
Over the weekend, GM issued additional recalls, including 490,000 trucks and 172,000 compact cars for other types of defects. And on Monday, the company recalled another 1.5 million cars for a steering defect.
All together, in the past six weeks, GM has issued eight separate recalls involving 6.3 million vehicles. It estimates that the recalls will cost it about $750 million.
The faulty ignition switch, which can lead to a loss of power and air bags that do not deploy, has been linked to a series of accidents and the deaths of at least 13 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Other local GM dealers also are contacting owners with recalled vehicles and offering courtesy cars even though the ignition replacement parts have not yet been received. GM is promising to begin delivering the required parts in a few days.
Doug Christensen, general manager at Beardmore Chevrolet Subaru in Bellevue, said it's too early to comment on how the service department will handle the influx of recalled vehicles.
“Once we get a sense of the parts' availability, that will let us know our scheduling,” Christensen said. “Our plan is to do whatever we need to do ... to get people back on the road.”
That could mean extended evening and weekend service hours, he said. The ignition switch replacement is expected to be a 30-minute repair, but dealers said getting parts and scheduling customers could slow the process.
Beardmore Chevrolet is relying on its internal fleet of vehicles to provide customers with loaners. “We are pulling brand new vehicles off the lot,” Christensen said Monday. “We'll have plenty of vehicles.”
Brett Edwards, general manager of Classic Chevrolet-Cadillac in Council Bluffs, said the dealer expects to be able to offer customers its usual suite of services.
Steve Hinchcliff, president of H & H Chevrolet, said the dealership has added to its loaner fleet and plans to expand the hours of its service department if necessary. Because the faulty ignition switch is “air-bag-related,” Hinchcliff said H & H is contacting and advising recall owners to bring their vehicles in now even though replacement parts are not yet available.
Jim Nelson, general manager of Sid Dillon Chevrolet in Blair, said he hasn't had any customers asking for a loaner, but he said he would make one available if asked.
Nelson said he doesn't have as many customers driving the compact Cobalt sedans and other small cars under recall. “We are a truck store,” he said.
Sid Dillon has responded to a separate, newer recall involving pickups and SUVs by repairing what GM described as a potential fire hazard resulting from a loose fitting for the transmissions' oil cooler lines. Nelson said the Blair location has switched the part on 200 trucks. “We're just not taking any chances.”
Back at Gregg Young Chevrolet, the morning rush begins at 7:30 a.m. as car owners drop off their cars, trucks and SUVs for repairs and then fill out paperwork to take the wheel of a courtesy car or rental while theirs is in the shop.
“It doesn't wind down until 10:30,” said Lund, raising his voice to be heard over the din.
Last week, Lund said he expected that the service department would get even busier over the next few weeks as owners of recalled vehicles drop them off.
The dealer has boosted its fleet of courtesy cars from 20 to 30 vehicles, Lund said, and is relying on Enterprise, which operates a rental car office next door to the service department, to supply additional loaner vehicles.
GM has made agreements with the rental car companies to waive certain rental fees and surcharges. For example, “GM has waived the young driver fee,” said Drew Schroeder, an Enterprise employee who was helping 22-year-old Hoer last week with the rental forms. Rental car companies often charge added fees for drivers under age 25.
Ashley Hoer drove away last week in a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze.
Monday, it was unclear whether Hoer's rental now might be involved in another recall.
GM said late last week it is recalling about 172,000 2013 and 2014 model Chevrolet Cruzes equipped with 1.4 liter turbocharged gasoline engines for replacement of the right front axle half-shaft, which can crack suddenly under normal driving conditions.
Not all Chevrolet Cruze sedans are part of the recall, and Bryant, spokeswoman for Enterprise Holdings, said the company does not yet know which models of its fleet may be affected.
She said the company is supposed to get vehicle identification numbers of affected cars today.
World-Herald staff writer Barbara Soderlin contributed to this report.
The GM ignition switch recall
Q. What vehicles are affected?
A: All 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada), 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles are involved in the ignition switch recall. This list has been expanding in recent days to include some versions of 2008-2011 model Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G-5, Pontiac Solstice and Pontiac Sky.
Q. What is the problem?
A: There is a risk that the ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, resulting in a loss of electrical power and turning off the engine. This risk increases if a key ring is carrying added weight or if a vehicle experiences rough road conditions. If the ignition switch is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy in case of a crash.
Q. What will GM do?
A: GM is working to obtain parts, and expects to have them this month. The repair will be performed at no charge. The company is sending letters to owners based on registration data.
Q. What should the car owner do?
A. Until the recall repairs have been performed, remove all items from the key ring, leaving only the vehicle key. Contact any Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac dealer. GM says with no additional items on the key ring, the vehicle is safe to drive pending the repair.
Q. What are lawmakers doing?
A. General Motors CEO Mary Barra and the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration face congressional hearings today and Wednesday.
In written testimony released ahead of the hearing, NHTSA chief David Friedman casts the blame on GM, saying it had information connecting defective ignition switches to the nondeployment of air bags, but didn't share it until last month.
Barra is expected to promise changes.
“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony.
Q. What are the other recent recalls?
A. GM is recalling 1.5 million cars made in 2010 or earlier because the electronic power-steering assist can suddenly stop working. They include the 2010 Cobalt compact, the 2009-2010 Chevrolet HHR compact and the 2004-2007 Saturn ION. A separate recall involves pickups and SUVs and a potential fire hazard due to a loose fitting for the transmissions' oil cooler lines. Those vehicles include the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups and the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe.
Q. What if you have other questions about these or other recalls?
A. Visit GM.com. Or call these hotline numbers: Chevrolet: 800-222-1020; Pontiac: 800-762-2737; and Saturn: 800-553-6000.