GM help site as defective as the switches, feds say – USA TODAY
Federal safety regulators say that not only are General Motors ignition switches defective, so is GM’s website for determining if you are driving one of the defective cars.
People who use the GM “VIN look-up” site are told their cars aren’t part of an active recall if the repair parts aren’t yet available, even when the cars are, in fact, being recalled.
VIN is the vehicle identification number. GM and other automakers maintain websites that allow owners to check for recalls by plugging in their vehicle’s VIN.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Friday that it “determined that owners of some recalled GM vehicles are receiving incorrect and misleading results” using the automaker’s VIN look-up system.
NHTSA said it told GM to fix the system and tell owners about the problem.
“Consumers who have used GM’s tool and found no recall should recheck,” NHTSA said.
GM spokesman Greg Martin said Friday night, “We are aware of NHSTA’s inquiry on the VIN look-up issue. We are making the necessary changes to our website.”
He said that people who are unsure if they got the right answer from the website “should call the customer care numbers listed on our website.”
Starting Aug. 20, NHTSA is requiring all automakers to provide a free online tool that lets car owners search for recalls using the VIN. Many automakers already do so.
NHTSA said in its statement that it was alerted to the faulty GM VIN look-up system by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Boxer has been especially tough on GM and its CEO, Mary Barra, at Senate subcommittee hearings, accusing the automaker of a cover-up for not disclosing sooner that millions of its vehicles had ignition switches with a potentially fatal flaw.
GM documents show that the switch problem was noticed in 2001, but nothing was done to fix it until engineer Ray DeGiorgio, since fired by GM, tried to improve the switch quietly in 2006, under the guise of fixing a different switch problem,
The switches can move inadvertently out of the “run” position. That shuts off the engine, which kills the power assist to steering and brakes, making the car more difficult to control. It also can disable airbags so occupants have less protection in a crash.
GM linked 13 deaths to the fault and in February and March recalled 2.6 million 2003 – 2011 small cars worldwide — 2.19 million of them in the U.S. — to replace the switches. It has taken months for its supplier, Delphi, to manufacture enough replacements to fix all the cars. The repairs are in progress.
June 30, GM recalled 6.59 million 1997 – 2008 mid-size and large cars worldwide — 5.88 million in the U.S. — for the same problem, and linked another three deaths to that recall.
In the first half, GM took $2.4 billion in charges against earnings to pay for those and other recalls. It has announced 60 recalls the first half, totaling 28.77 million cars and trucks worldwide, 25.48 million of those in the U.S., by GM’s count.
GM created a victims’ compensation fund administered independently by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who handled similar duty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the BP oil spill and the Boston Marathon bombing.
GM raised skepticism about whether he really is free to award whatever he thinks is fair when it said as part of its second-quarter earnings review than it expected to spend $400 million to $600 million on the fund.
Lawyers for victims said the figure was far too low and could serve as a signal to Feinberg that, despite GM’s public hands-off stance, there is a cap on the fund.
GM said it was providing relevant financial information to investors, as it’s required to do.