GM dealers surveyed by NBC: No parts received yet to fix ignitions

Gabe Gutierrez, Rich Gardella and Talesha Reynolds
Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors Co. (GM), pauses while speaking during a Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S..
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Motors has said it will begin fixing the vehicle ignition problem blamed for at least 13 deaths as part of a nationwide recall this week, but a check of more than a dozen GM dealerships by NBC News on Monday revealed that no work has begun because the necessary parts have not yet arrived.

Calls by NBC News to service departments at 13 GM dealerships in eight states found that the process of repairing the faulty ignition switches had yet to begin.

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The problem with the ignition switch enables some GM vehicles to accidentally be turned from "run" to the "accessory" position while the cars are being driven, shutting down the power brakes, power steering and airbags.

Despite the apparent loss of Monday to fix the faulty ignition switches, GM spokesman Greg Martin said the recall and repair schedule remains on target.

"No delay on parts and they're on their way," he said in an email to NBC News. "We've always said the week of April 7. ... We plan to send letters this week informing affected customers that parts are arriving at dealerships and to schedule a service appointment with their dealer. Repairs are likely to begin to follow soon after the customer letter mailing."

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Martin did not respond to a question about whether any GM dealers had received the parts and begun repairs.

The automaker has used different language to describe the recall.

Testifying before Congress last week, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in response to a question that "we'll begin shipping material -- or new parts..." on April 7.

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But in at least one graphic on the GM website, it said, "Beginning April 7, parts will be available for the following vehicles," listing 2003-07 model year Saturn Ions and Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 Pursuit models from 2005-2007. The graphic was being "updated" Monday and was not viewable on the website, said Martin, the GM spokesman. He said it would be republished on Tuesday.

The service manager at one big-city dealership, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because "we have been instructed not to talk to media about this matter," confirmed that no ignition recall-related repairs had been performed because no parts had been received.

But he defended GM's handling of the recall, particularly in its recommendation that drivers remove the vehicle key from a key ring to reduce torque, making it highly unlikely that it could be accidentally switched off by the added weight of other keys.

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"That leaves no possibility for failure – and that's very important," he said.

Another service manager at a Chevrolet dealership in New Jersey, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said media reports were causing confusion about when repairs would begin, saying that customers were lined up at the service department at 7 a.m. on Monday. He stressed that letters would be sent to customers advising them when they can schedule repairs.

GM has now disclosed to federal regulators that it knew of problems with its ignition switches as early as 2001. But while the automaker issued a dealer bulletin in December 2005 warning dealers about problems with switches and heavy key rings, it didn't order a recall until February.

GM has now expanded the ignition recall to 2.6 million vehicles.