By on March 28, 2014

Pontiac_Solstice

Automotive News posits an earlier recall would have prevented a majority of fatalities tied to the 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt’s ignition switch. According to their research, seven of the eight deaths occurred after April of 2006, when the improved switch was quietly introduced into the supply stream; one of the four fatalities linked to 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ions was found to have occurred after the April 2006 improved part introduction, as well.

Among other findings, only one of the eight Cobalt fatalities did not factor alcohol or seat belts into the equation, two of the eight deaths — one under “Old GM,” one under “New GM” — led to lawsuits that were settled prior to the February 2014 recall, and that some of the families found in their research never had any contact with the automaker.

The findings come from an AN article that examined the timing of various fatalities involving crashes with the Chevrolet Cobalt, with AN’s Nick Bunkley writing

“The research indicates that all of the deaths involved cars built before the switch was redesigned; had GM simultaneously elected to recall the cars, repairs could have been performed before a majority of the fatal crashes happened. It also shows that only one of the 12 deaths occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in July 2009.”

The Detroit News reports United States Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut penned a letter to General Motors CEO Mary Barra urging her to warn drivers of affected 2003 – 2007 Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn products to park their vehicles until the ignition switch linked to the recall is fixed, and the vehicles no longer “present urgent danger” to the general public:

I urge you to issue a stronger warning to drivers of recalled vehicles of the acknowledged risk they are facing, including a warning not to drive recalled cars. This warning should be issued as soon as possible — in advance of your testimony before the subcommittee.

The letter follows a similar call from Texas lawyer Robert Hilliard, who is representing 15 families in a class action suit before federal court, claiming that the public need not even drive the affected vehicles to be affected by the recall. The suit, headed by the Silvas family over loss of resale value in opposition to loss of life as experienced by the other families, will be heard April 4.

Bloomberg reports calls to GM’s Customer Engagement Center in Warren, Mich. — opened in 2013 to improve service and customer retention — have doubled during peak hours since the recall began, as explained by senior vice president for global quality and customer experience Alicia Boler-Davis:

Since GM announced the ignition switch recall, the center has seen more than double the amount of calls during peak times from typical daily call volumes. Up to 100 dedicated, specially trained advisors have been available to quickly assist customers with questions on this issue alone, bringing down the average wait time to less than a minute.

Boler-Davis is among those under the gun by customers and critics alike, Detroit Free Press reports, along with GM vice president of global engineering John Calabrese, global product chief Mark Reuss, and vice president of global safety Jeff Boyer. For her, the customer center is one of the ways GM is hoping to restore confidence in their products:

It shows that we’re available, we’re here to help. We’re wanting to be accessible to them, whether it’s through telephone, whether its through social media, whether they’re wanting to send us e-mails.

The appointment of Boyer to the newly created global safety post also aims to improve the automaker’s image before the general public, according to Reuss:

Jeff is a passionate safety zealot, and he really has been involved with just about every part of the car, including interiors and the computer data engineering of safety.

Back in Washington, D.C., U.S. Representative and House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan told Detroit Free Press that he and his colleagues were “very surprised with the revelations that came forward the last couple of weeks” from the various investigations into the recall crisis, and plans to spend the weekend with his staff poring over more than 5,000 documents supplied by GM related to the recall prior to the hearing with Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting administrator David Friedman April 1:

I don’t know what the response is going to be. Those questions are going to get asked on Tuesday. We don’t have any predisposed conclusions on where this is going. Everything is on the table. We’re going to find out the answers as we should.

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48 Comments on “GM Call Center Sees Double, Upton Prepares For Hearing...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    My dentist’s receptionist has one of those little Pontiac things. Twee!

    • 0 avatar

      Hah! I know not how the car drives, if it’s any good or aything. I have only seen two here. But it does look nice!

      • 0 avatar
        afedaken

        The reviews here from ages ago are pretty spot-on. (I own a black one that looks just like the pictured car.) It’s fun for 9/10ths, then HOLD ON. A little underpowered in N/A form. Interior by rubbermaid. LOOOOOOOOONG throw shifter.

        None of that matters when you’re cruising with the top down. :-)

        If I had to do it again, i’d get the Miata. But I love it all the same.

  • avatar
    Syke

    As do I. A bit on the crude side, but a hell of a lot of fun on the back roads. Really want to do a track day at VIR one of these days to have a chance to really wind it out. And, to my surprise, I preferred it over the ’06 Miata I cross-shopped it against.

    Now that a US Senator is grandstanding about a ‘park it until fixed’ letter (I expected that from a law firm), I’m convinced that said letter is not necessary. Then again, having five different vehicles to pick from on a given morning, I’ve always had my house, mailbox, etc. keys on a separate key ring, so I’m not bothered by the problem. The door lock fob doesn’t way that much.

    • 0 avatar
      afedaken

      I gave up on the key fob. Soldered it back together twice. Since I don’t have a remote start, I didn’t miss it anyway.

      I gave up on locking the doors. :-) No point on a rag top anyone could cut open to retrieve what they like.

      Besides; it’s a soltice. There’s not enough interior space to carry anything of significant value, right? ;-)

  • avatar
    Deaks2

    Since GM appears to have comitted the cardinal sin of changing the part without changing the part number, how can we be sure that some of the post-2006 cars did not get the pre-2006 ignition switch (eg: old stock, etc…)

    The only solution in my mind to eliminate any and all risk is to recall every car that has that part number (old part of revised) and replace the switch with a new one that has a new part number.

    • 0 avatar

      > Since GM appears to have comitted the cardinal sin of changing the part without changing the part number

      The part & change was apparently done upstream by delphi, who didn’t change their # either. Ostensibly someone at GM signed off on the changes, but not the safety folks.

      • 0 avatar

        Part numbers are normally changed when a part is upgraded. The radiator coolant catch which failed got a new part number when it was fixed. Anyone who plays with any car knows that the X part, which failed a lot on the early cars and was then fixed, then gets a new part number, along with a “X part superceded, use Y”

        I am VERY skeptical about this one. It was clearly an attempt to sweep under the rug. This part does not fail at a dealer’s service writer desk. It fails in the field, under variable circumstances. Only GM corporate could know this-a smart expert witness figured it out-and now we all know.

        Changing the number would be a red flag, and someone outside would have figured it out sooner.

        Women have big keychains. It is entirely foreseeable that someone would hang a two pound keychain off the key….you might not, but someone will. You have seen that keychain at the supermarket, with fifteen frequent shopper cards, keys to five cars and three homes, and work. If you sell cars for a living, you have to consider this.

        • 0 avatar

          > Part numbers are normally changed when a part is upgraded.

          This is trivially untrue and perhaps reflects the know-how of all those claiming it.

          For example, consider an AC unit with ~100+ components total. Changing its part # (ie. fully propagated downstream to every dealer, etc) simply because a screw inside was shorten or any number of mundane production shifts is completely asinine.

          > Only GM corporate could know this-a smart expert witness figured it out-and now we all know.

          Worth noting that “expert witnesses” aren’t selected for their expertise but rather court manners. It’s more likely that the plantiffs “figured it out” via the discovery process, since GM also figured it out last year.

          What likely happened in this case is that delphi has its own internal part versioning system, but reports via unversioned part #’s to GM. The design eng at GM sees nothing of particular note and since the change didn’t originate from them doesn’t bother to unilaterally increment their own part #.

          The irony of these sorts of cases is that the loudest voices are usually those who’ve never made anything more complicated than a wooden bowl in shop class, nevermind a goddamn *car*.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Actually, the solution is 2 parts:

      1. Don’t crash like an idiot
      2. Don’t have 40 pounds of crap hanging from the ignition.

      Do those two very simple things and the so-called “defect” goes away.

      • 0 avatar

        > Do those two very simple things and the so-called “defect” goes away.

        No, the problem is that depending on conditions, even keychain heft within reason bumped just right can turn off the car, thereby contributing to a crash.

        This isn’t quite unintended acceleration. It’s a more complex issue because there’s no line in the sand for acceptable risk, and dummies can’t understand what that means anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          Z71_Silvy

          You’re missing the point.

          Under normal driving conditions and even during crashes, the ignition switch wouldn’t ‘turn off’. The only way it turns off is when there is an unacceptable amount of weight hanging from the ignition acting like a pendulum.

          But even with that weight hanging there, it’s not an issue unless the driver crashes.

          So, it’s really as simple as….don’t crash while having a ton of weight hanging off the ignition.

          It’s called personal responsibility.

          • 0 avatar

            > Under normal driving conditions and even during crashes, the ignition switch wouldn’t ‘turn off’. The only way it turns off is when there is an unacceptable amount of weight hanging from the ignition acting like a pendulum.

            Please allow that someone like me understands how torque works.

            The ignitions are generally built to resists a certain force. The issue is that for a couple of years the delphi ignition was weaker than desired, thereby dropping below what was originally deemed an “acceptable” load.

            AFAIK, there’s no actual standard for this and the relatively few incidents certainly don’t warrant the outrage, but it’s still unintuitive to most that heavier keychain = car shutoff. Therefore it’s also the responsibility of GM to mitigate this safety issue.

          • 0 avatar
            chicagoland

            “…don’t crash while having a ton of weight hanging off the ignition.”

            This is called “GM Apologism” Blame the victims.

            This never occurred when GM made good products, and with other makes. “Jack Smith-ism” made GM cheapen out to cut costs to pad the stock price. Worst CEO ever.

            And BTW, this occurs when there is no “shit” dangling too.

            Pure arrogance to suggest it’s the “drivers’ faults” If GM was still like this, let them go under, but none of the current Managers are ‘blaming victims’, I hope they weed out the apologists.

          • 0 avatar

            Z71_Silvy,
            The letter I received from GM quite clearly states that the ignition switch may move to the off position of its own free will.
            Again to quote from it:
            “There is a risk,under certain conditions,that your ignition switch may move out of the “run” position,resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine. This risk increases if your key ring is carrying added weight(such as more keys or the key fob) or if your vehicle experiences rough road conditions or other jarring or impact related events.”
            In other words GM is telling me my car may shut down any time I go over potholes,badly cracked surface streets,gravel roads,anything other than a smooth surface. Not just because I put my house and work keys on my keychain-something that no other Auto company in the world has had an issue with,including GM for their previous 70 odd yrs.
            Except GM is telling me that extra keys and bad roads only INCREASE THE RISK of my car deciding to shut itself off.
            I guess personal responsibility in my case would be to not drive my car.

          • 0 avatar

            > The letter I received from GM quite clearly states that the ignition switch may move to the off position of its own free will.

            Inanimate objects generally lack free will. A key which turns with less force is easier to use but increases risk of accidental activation. This isn’t a binary measure but rather a spectrum from too easy to too hard.

            Far as we know there’s no line in the sand of what constitutes too easy since there’s no upper legal limit of how much weight can be on a keychain nor the bumpiest road which can be built. It can only be determined in hindsight that a few dozen crashes in a decade out of ~1mil cars with those particular key switches that it may or may not be too easy.

            > Not just because I put my house and work keys on my keychain-something that no other Auto company in the world has had an issue with,including GM for their previous 70 odd yrs.

            Just like unintended acceleration it’s likely this has always occurred to some extent, due to how physical reality works.

      • 0 avatar
        Ralph ShpoilShport

        GM: Yea! Ford: Boo!

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Actually the solution has a 3rd part:

        3. Don’t buy GM vehicles.

        Do those very simple things and the so-called “defect” goes away.

        But yeah, “Don’t crash like an idiot”

        This one girl was a complete “idiot” for buying a Cobalt, taking it back to the dealer, complains “the engine shuts off while driving”, Chevy dealer charges her to tell her there’s nothing wrong, and again like and idiot, she believes it and within hours, her Cobalt shuts off in traffic immediately gets T-boned, killing the girl that totally crashed like an “idiot”.

        • 0 avatar

          > This one girl was a complete “idiot” for buying a Cobalt, taking it back to the dealer, complains “the engine shuts off while driving”, Chevy dealer charges her to tell her there’s nothing wrong,

          If that were the case the dealer should’ve implemented the TSB to fix the key which minimizes jostling. So technically it’s a dealer screwup here but it’s likely they’re suing GM for their deeper pockets.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >…it’s a dealer screwup here but it’s likely they’re suing GM for their deeper pockets.

            By 2010, GM and its dealers had long given up on the key insert thing. Like if the issue faded from their memories and nothing else was done about it. It’s not like there was a revised/updated/fixed ignition, officially. But even if the dealer (service advisor, tech) knew about or remembered the TSB, there’s no point in installing the same darn ignition that’s in it.

            But I don’t understand why TSBs don’t automatically pop up when visiting the dealer, especially when “engine shutting OFF while driving” is explicitly mentioned in the customer’s complaint.

            Also lots of stuff on the key ring can bind and twist a key’s small eyelet, as it swings back and forth.

          • 0 avatar

            > By 2010, GM and its dealers had long given up on the key insert thing.

            How so? AFAICT solutions which solve the problem have no expiration date, esp. if it’s the service dept’s job.

            > Also lots of stuff on the key ring can bind and twist a key’s small eyelet, as it swings back and forth.

            It reduces the torque arm length several fold; a sufficiently heavy keychain can turn off any such design.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >How so? AFAICT solutions which solve the problem have no expiration date, esp. if it’s the service dept’s job.

            No expiration date, but I paraphrased one of your links. It kind of faded away. But you’ll agree there’s nothing that pops up on the service writers’s terminal. There’s hundreds or thousands of TSBs to memorize if that’s their intention. Also there’s tremendous employee turnover in service writers. They’re sales staff basically, looking for that upsell. One day they’re working at a Ford dealer, and next you see them at the Honda dealer pimpin’ timing belts.

          • 0 avatar

            > But you’ll agree there’s nothing that pops up on the service writers’s terminal.

            The TSBs are sorted by model. Putting her car’s details in as part of the service should pull up associated TSBs.

            If your argument is that they’re too incompetent to do this, then it’s questionable anything should be serviced at all.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >The TSBs are sorted by model. Putting her car’s details in as part of the service should pull up associated TSBs.

            Obviously it doesn’t always happen. Ask Brook Melton. Oh wait, she’s deceased.

            Service writing is sales driven. Fixing cars is a byproduct. Preventing tragedies isn’t even on their radar.

          • 0 avatar

            > Obviously it doesn’t always happen. Ask Brook Melton. Oh, wait, she’s deceased.

            Frankly it’s hard to tell what your point is other than auditioning to replace Nancy Grace.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >Frankly it’s hard to tell what your point is other than auditioning to replace Nancy Grace.

            There’s a breakdown in the system is the point. When it comes to TSBs, there is no ‘system’. The ‘checks’ are not in place.

            Tell my why that can’t be fixed? We have the technology. And everybody wins, right? This isn’t 1966.

            And where are all those OEM managers who’s job this is?

            But spare me the melodrama.

          • 0 avatar

            > There’s a breakdown in the system is the point. When it comes to TSBs, there is no ‘system’. The ‘checks’ are not in place.

            The breakdown was due to human incompetence.

            > Tell my why that can’t be fixed? We have the technology. And everybody wins, right? This isn’t 1966. And where are all those OEM managers who’s job this is?

            Unfortunately not all types of incompetence can be trivially resolved. Arbitrary diagnostics is one of the hardest problems there is.

            > But spare me the melodrama.

            Ironic.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >The breakdown was due to human incompetence.

            OEM incompetence. Same thing I guess.

            >Unfortunately not all types of incompetence can be trivially resolved. Arbitrary diagnostics is one of the hardest problems there is.

            I’m not disputing the diagnostics aspect. But if a TSB pops up when the right VIN is entered, that covers Cobalts ignitions shutting off the engine while driving AND the customer states “engine shuts off while driving”… It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist (or BAF0) to do the math!

          • 0 avatar

            > But if a TSB pops up when the right VIN is entered, that covers Cobalts ignitions shutting off the engine while driving AND the customer states “engine shuts off while driving”… It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist (or BAF0) to do the math!

            This is the TSB in question:

            http://www.automd.com/tsb/bulletin_b217697/

            Part of the problem could be that the Cobalt has a LOT of tsbs, and this one was under “steering”, not “engine”. It’s correctly filed but just unfortunate the way the categories worked out.

            Ironically mandating TSBs for every little thing only makes the haystack bigger.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >>Part of the problem could be that the Cobalt has a LOT of tsbs, and this one was under “steering”, not “engine”. It’s correctly filed but just unfortunate the way the categories worked out.

            1st it has to be listed in the right category and categories. If listed right, LOTS of TBS is irrelevant. It goes back to that “who’s job is it to keep GM cars safe and why aren’t they doing it”.

            Listing it under “steering” is stupid. Yes drivers experience a loss in steering (assist), but they also experience a loss in braking (assist) and unknowingly, airbags. Mostly the engine shuts OFF. If it’s listed under “steering”, why not “braking”???

            You said something about “human incompetence”? Yes that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

            You’re so bent on having the last word, you don’t even notice when you’re agreeing with me…

          • 0 avatar

            > Listing it under “steering” is stupid. Yes drivers experience a loss in steering (assist), but they also experience a loss in braking (assist) and unknowingly, airbags. Mostly the engine shuts OFF. If it’s listed under “steering”, why not “braking”???

            I see what you don’t know about automaking or TSBs or service also extends to how cars work. The category is the location of the part in question, not all possible other areas the part might affect. The key affects the electrical system (ie ignition), which in turn affects the engin. No gold stars for guessing where the key is located.

            > You’re so bent on having the last word, you don’t even notice when you’re agreeing with me…

            Please note I’m correcting your incompetence as a courtesy. There’d be no need to do so if we’re in agreement.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            >>I see what you don’t know about automaking or TSBs or service also extends to how cars work. The category is the location of the part in question, not all possible other areas the part might affect. The key affects the electrical system (ie ignition), which in turn affects the engin. No gold stars for guessing where the key is located.

            I can make the link between a steering TSB and a defective ignition that shuts itself OFF, but there’s nothing wrong with the steering per se. Why not also have a TSB on the brakes, just the same. Point is there’s no direct link to a customer’s complaint of “the engine shutting off while driving” and a steering TSB.

            There 2 other steering TSBs on the ’05 Cobalt. One is for a clunking noise at low speeds and the other is for inop power steering, hard to turn with message displayed. Plus for 4 more TSBs involving the ’05 Cobalt’s steering column.

            chevroletproblems.com/tsbs/Cobalt/2005/

            These just make it that much harder for a service writer to find a TSB for a defective ignition switch, buried in TSBs actually involving steering components.

          • 0 avatar

            > I can make the link between a steering TSB and a defective ignition that shuts itself OFF, but there’s nothing wrong with the steering per se.

            Irrelevant. Again, the category is simply location of the affected part, not all other categories it can possibly affect. This is due to the very simple fact that there’s only one source for the one field, compared to any number of side-effects. This is probably mandated by whichever regulatory agency, so take it up with them if it’s too hard to understand.

            This is clear evidence diagnostics is hard, because it’s likely you consider yourself competent enough to work in auto service regardless.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        Meet the new GM!
        Same as the old GM!

        Just don’t get fooled again!
        Don’t get fooled again!
        NO NO – NO NO NO!
        Don’t get fooled again!

    • 0 avatar
      CarGal

      @Deaks2 I totally agree. Better safe than sorry.

  • avatar
    George B

    GM could either spend money on replacing the ignition locks on older disposable Chevrolet Cobalts or they could make a part to fill in the hole in Cobalt keys so they can’t be put on a keyring. We’re talking about a car born to be a rental with winter beater in its future. The steering column sounds like it’s lubricated with sand. Hard plastic interior parts unsnap from the dash and door panels if you look at them wrong. The seat designers never uttered the phrase “lumbar support” at any point in their development. The Cobalt is so bad that the Daewoo designed Cruze seems revolutionary by comparison.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    After reading the NY Times article from earlier this week, which mentions 26 deaths from crashes involving recalled models *after* engineers found an ignition switch defect in ’09, not feeling a whole lot of trust in GM. (The Automotive News article above references just 8 Cobalt-specific fatalities as reported by GM.)

    Just noticed this as well, from Reuters:

    “GM stops selling some Cruze small cars, offering no reason”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/28/us-gm-cruze-idUSBREA2R13P20140328

    A stop sale on the Cruze w/ 1.4L turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      gtrslngr

      Apologies for posting the same …

    • 0 avatar

      From the NYTimes:

      “Since the engineers’ meeting in May 2009, at least 23 fatal crashes have involved the recalled models, resulting in 26 deaths.”

      “It was unclear how many of the 26 deaths since the 2009 meeting were related to the faulty ignition”.

      LOLOLOL.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        It’s completely unclear how many of those 26 deaths were due to ignition switches (wink wink) – but one that that is clear here at the NY Times is – cars are evil – and you should not own one. Shoot – no one here at the NY Times does – we walk – and take the subway, and the rest of America should too.

        Global warming!!!

        • 0 avatar

          > but one that that is clear here at the NY Times is – cars are evil – and you should not own one

          No, that was a pity piece as were most of media coverage over this.

          You’re supposed to feel sorry for the helpless families at the mercy of the evil conniving corporation.

          It’s easy to tell because these guys don’t have the balls to cover real abuse of power.

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    ….. and just to add to their woes … GM has just announced they’ve suspended sales of the Chevrolet Cruze : with no explanation forthcoming .

    A couple of songs coming to mind as GM slowly sinks into the bottomless chasm of its own making ;

    Richard Thompson’s ” House of Cards ” [ Robert Plant\'s version ]

    and

    Led Zeppelin’s ” Your Time is Gonna Come ”

    Rock On – Drive On – Remain Calm – and do Carry On

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Old GM, New GM, still same old cheapie GM rubbish. Drive at your own risk.

  • avatar

    Just a heads up to other readers who didn’t see the synopsis of the problem from the last articles on this:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-hits-social-media-as-part-number-debacle-adds-confusion/#comment-3015529

  • avatar
    rnc

    Think putting Kate Upton up on stage would help mitigate this problem substantially and is a brilliant move, maybe Bara is the right leader, or without reading the article or other comments am I on the wrong path?

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Should buy the cars back at market value.

    And quit the cover ups, blame shifting, and passing the buck. Too many think GM is a ‘public utility’ that provides jobs, but people should do their jobs well, not just ‘collect pay’ and do nothing all day.


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