By on October 5, 2010

What do you do when a company you own (through your trusty Treasury Department) won’t help you out over the phone? Out of luck with his dealer and pissed off at the “condescending” attitude of GM’s phone support staff, one former Marine and “lifelong GM customer” drove from Virginia to Detroit in order to get The General to take responsibility for chronic power steering pump failures in his wife’s Chevy HHR. His initial reward: more condescension, and the privilege of getting escorted from the premises of GM’s Headquarters. But Marines don’t quit that easily…

The aggrieved customer, David Derringer, knew that the HHR’s steering pump was essentially the same unit as the recalled pump in Chevrolet Cobalts, and demanded a refund for the replacement unit he bought. GM insists that the HHR’s unit is “tuned differently” than the recalled Cobalt pump and has had half as many warranty claims. But after being booted from the Ren Cen, Derringer took to Detroit’s local media, and GM soon gave the tenacious ex-Marine the refund he was looking for. Though he admits to having lost money by taking the fight to Detroit, Derringer insists that the principle is what’s most important. He tells Detroit’s WDIV

I’ve had some satisfaction knowing I’ve done all I can do

See WDIV’s interview with Derringer here.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

56 Comments on “GM Customer Drives 450 Miles For Ren-Cen Refund...”

  • avatar

    Well, at least he can vote at the shareholder meeting on November 2nd.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @ash, ha!  I didn’t think of it that way.  I’ll have to run that one past the “Legislative Process” class I’m teaching at the state college branch.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I also have a feeling this was one way to not only get personal satisfaction about it but to also be able to say to his wife that he had done all he could do.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure his wife wasn’t thrilled about having her power steering go in and out… Derringer tells WDIV that
      It didn’t matter if it was on a harsh curve or if you were on a straight away, whether the roads were wet or dry. You know when it went out, it didn’t go back on and you weren’t always in a safe place to turn off the key
      Doing all you can do for the safety of your significant other is surely a satisfying pursuit… especially if you can’t work due to disability (as was the case here). Getting a giant company to say “uncle” is just the icing on top, I’d say.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I’m not saying it wasn’t a problem.  I would have just likely gotten the local investigative reporter on the dealers a$$.  Doesn’t cost anything really and those guys can be a real P.I.T.A. but they make things happen.

  • avatar

    “GM insists that the HHR’s unit is “tuned differently” than the recalled Cobalt pump and has had half as many warranty claims.”

    Umm, hasn’t the Cobalt been out for a longer period of time than the HHR?  And I’m guessing it also sold in greater volumes, which would account for there being “half as many” warranty claims on the HHR.  Has anyone at GM studied quality control?

  • avatar

    No surprise here. I had a defective part on my “under bumper to bumper warranty” Buick that the dealer refused to fix. When I asked GM to reimburse me for the part on the GM Fast Lane blog, it took several weeks for them to admit that the part should have been replaced under warranty.  They asked me what would make me happy.  So I said “Give me back my $43.”  Too simple for GM.  They offered me a $100 credit towards my next vehicle service.  Why is it so hard to do what the customer wants?  Sounds like the old GM to me. 

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Got to love it.  No we can’t give you $43, but we’ll give you a $100 toward a service so we can tell you…
      The mechanic raised up from under my hood,
      ‘n-He shook his head and said: “This ain’t good;
      Your timin’ belt’s done shrunk one size too small;
      And those spark plug wires are a little too long,
      And your main prodsponder’s nearly gone;
      Your injector ports are stripped, and that ain’t all…

      …Your torque converter’s runnin’ low on torque,
      And that water pump’s nearly down a quart;
      We caught it all in time, so you’re in luck.”
      He said, “I’ve got the time, and I’ve got the parts,
      Just give me the word, and I’m ready to start;
      I think we can bring her in for-uh, eight-hundred bucks.

    • 0 avatar

      Dan, Don’t forget to have them grease your “muffler bearings”…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @Robert, I should have given the source, The Talking Song Repair Blues – Alan Jackson BTW one of the great “literal” videos of all time.

    • 0 avatar

      Omnifan, you’re lucky!

      I, too, complained on the Fastlane blog, even getting a personal response from John M. McDonald, who assured me that GM Canada would look into my complaint and recompense me something for the troubles I experienced.
      Here’s the thread:

      Some time later, I received a telephone call at home from a woman at the call centre offering me a $100 voucher towards my next GM purchase. I laughed out loud, offending the poor woman (who was only doing her job, of course), and told her under no circumstance would I purchase a brand new GM product, and declined her generous offer.

  • avatar

    Glad to see that the “New GM” is more customer savvy than the Dead General.


  • avatar

    “Tuned differently” is marketingspeak for what I am guessing is just a different relief valve setting (which sets the maximum pressure that the pump can generate). 

    My brother learned this the hard way when he transplanted a 400 SBC into a 1976 AMC Pacer back in high school.  The 258-6 in the Pacer came with a GM-sourced power steering pump which looked identical to the one from the 1975 Chevy wagon that the 400 came out of, so he used the Chevy pump since it was already on the engine.  After blowing the seals out of 2 or 3 steering racks on the Pacer, he finally figured out that the Chevy pump had a much higher maximum pressure setting because it was set up for a conventional intergral-assist steering box.  Swapping that little spring in the back of the pump fixed it.

    I’m not surprised at all by this guy’s experience, as decades-old corporate habits are almost impossible to break.  Good for him though, he must be retired to have the free time to do what he did!  His being escorted out of GM headquarters reminds me of the film Roger and Me.

    • 0 avatar

      In this case, “tuned differently has to mean computer or ECM settings as the power steering unit is an electric pump and plugs into a harness under the dash on the steering column with two bolts. There are NO hydraulics/fluids involved.

  • avatar

    We need more David Derringers.  It would have been better if this made the national news.
    GM really needs a 60,000 mile, no questions asked, bumper to bumper warranty, while the company tries to rebuild the trust of US car buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      GM really needs a 60,000 mile, no questions asked, bumper to bumper warranty, while the company tries to rebuild the trust of US car buyers.

      Are you kidding?  They’d go bankrupt if they did this.  Oh wait…..

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    A more obvious answer is the track that I’ve taken.
    Never, ever again purchase a GM product.
    Ah, motoring nirvana – I’ve actually got reliable products with a reasonable resale value now.

  • avatar

    maybe a convention of replaced intake gasket owners should gather in Detroit. wait. there aren’t sufficient hotel accomodations.

    • 0 avatar
      Cammy Corrigan

      From what I’ve heard Detroit could do with outside money pouring in. So maybe that convention should go ahead…?

    • 0 avatar

      There aren’t enough hotel rooms in all of Michigan for that convention.

      Dealership: Dexcool? – Not our fault…

      Intake gasket? – Not our fault…

      Fuel pump failure (twice), starter failure (twice), coil failure, ECM failure (twice), all related in a domino fashion to the intake gasket failure? – Not our fault…

      Contact GM Canada  – it’s their responsibility…

      GM Canada:  Contact your dealership, it’s their responsibility…

      $4000 later (I now have an awesome truck, however), GM Canada offers me a $100 voucher towards the purchase of my next GM vehicle. Hahahahahahahahahaha…

      This is the situation where I just laugh at GM fanbois – in thirty plus years of buying cars, I have had the gross misfortune to be treated like a leper at multiple GM dealers, and even though I have dealt with a larger total of Ford, Toyota and Chrysler dealers, all the trials and tribulations I have suffered at the hands of GM amounts to most of the dealership trouble I have experienced.

      My Ford dealer is one of the best experiences I have ever had with a dealer, and just like my Toyota dealership, has earned future business. Not because the respective cars are better, but the dealerships have gone beyond what I expected in service and warranty situations.

      GM? Not so much. I was not expecting any compensation for (my then) four year old truck, but I expected GM to acknowledge the problem existed, and that they had taken all neccessary steps to ensure that it wasn’t repeated again. Apparently, that isn’t ever going to happen. When somebody at GM stands up and says “We f**ked up, and here are all of the steps we’ve taken to not only ensure this never occurs again, and the following people have been sacked for it…”, nobody is ever going to believe them again.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Never, ever again purchase a GM product.
    Ah, motoring nirvana – I’ve actually got reliable products with a reasonable resale value now”

    Really? that’s what I said after I got the Toyota and Audi out of my garage and parked a Chevy Tahoe in there….LOL

    The real loser here is the dealership, not GM.  

  • avatar

    GM?  Condescending attitude?  I would have understood this before 2008 because GM was always condescending.  But think about it.  After bankruptcy, you get one of your loyal customers so mad at you that he drives to your headquarters, gets on the news and is now making his point all around the world. 

    It is stories like this that make me think that there is still too much deck-chair rearranging going on at GM. 

  • avatar

     “one former Marine and “lifelong GM customer” drove from Virginia to Detroit ”
    “Though he admits to having lost money by taking the fight to Detroit,”

    He must have taken a C-130 Hercules Transport Plane to Detroit where he can both drive and fly ;)

    I should do the same for all the broken Apple iPods I have in the junk drawer.

  • avatar

    So what is the boggie Ray LaHood has set for steering failures before the vehicles must be recalled and fixed?

    • 0 avatar

      In order:
      1) Listen to customer complaints. No need to verify actual conditions or veracity of claims, just listen to ’em.
      2) Verify whether automaker involved is a direct competitor to the two federally-owned automakers. If yes, proceed to Step 4.
      3) Allow complaints to vanish into the bureaucratic ether.
      4) BOOK ‘EM, DANNO! Preferably before Congress, ahead of whatever formal investigation the situation may actually warrant.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    A negative mention in the media negates $1,000,000 of paid advertising!

    So how far ahead are the morons at GM for stonewalling Mr. Derringer?

  • avatar

    Stories like this are why GM will fail again. In spite of everything the culture hasn’t changed. The UAW is just a small part of the problem there, the whole culture is disfunctional and not capable of learning from the past.

    • 0 avatar

      To MikeAR   you put it exactly right .  My only GM vehicle is a Silverado Duramax which has been a great vehicle  and I am actually relieved that it is now pretty much out of any sort of warranty as I will not be subject to dealing with GM or one of their dealers again.  

  • avatar

    All of this talk about how GM has found religion and is now making high-quality cars is media propaganda.  We’ve been hearing the same story for the last 30 years.
    Look at Consumer Reports, the two worst brands in terms of reliability are always GM and Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar

      GM has always forged ahead with a corporate “our [email protected]@t don’t stink” attitude since the first small-block Chevy fired up, if not before. And while I may have liked a product or two of theirs,(all made prior to ’72) Its the corporate mentality that drives me away. There probably are still people there in management who firmly believe the X-car was a fine automobile.

  • avatar

    When I was a boy, many years ago, a man who lived in our neighborhood bought a diesel powered Oldsmobile.  I don’t need to tell you how that turned out.  The attitude of both the dealer and GM was, “Go pound sand.”  Since he could not get any satisfaction from GM, he painted the following on the sides of the car “GM Makes Defective Cars.  Ask Me.”  If anyone asked, he handed them a printed flier that detailed his experiences with GM and their wonderful diesel powered passenger cars.  I believe that GM’s first response was to send him a “cease and desist”.  Several months after that, the car disappeared from his driveway, replaced by something new.  I guess they finally settled.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Doesn’t always work like that.

      I remember a guy in the neighborhood who painted “paint by Dodge, service by (stealer)” over the peeling paint on his late model Dodge.

      He had it for quite a while like that. I don’t think the stealer, Dodge or Chrycorp ever settled with him.

    • 0 avatar

      >Several months after that, the car disappeared from his driveway, replaced by something new.
      I thought you were going to say:
      “Several months after that, the man disappeared from his driveway, replaced by a GM corporate cyborg…”

  • avatar

    ..another satisfied FORMER “lifelong GM customer”.   I guess little has changed. I shake my head in disgust.

  • avatar

    “I laughed out loud, offending the poor woman (who was only doing her job, of course), and told her under no circumstance would I purchase a brand new GM product, and declined her generous offer.”
    Brilliant strategy. I’m sure they caved and gave in to your demands.
    Just more anecdotal bs stories here. nothing to see. Move along…
    Only here at TTAC is a negative GM story headlined.

  • avatar

    First of all, good for him on standing up for what he believed in.
    I’d say that a lot of that could have been prevented if his dealer had been better to him. When I took my HHR in last year to have the steering looked at (at the time I didn’t know about the recalls or defective parts) the dealer did everything they could to have the car fixed without question, and gave me a loaner car. This is also the same dealer that when I had my Oldsmobile and GM said that I couldn’t have it serviced there because it wasn’t an Olds dealer (Chevy-Cad) went straight to the top for me and got that nonsense eliminated for me. So my point to all this is that if the dealer is worth a darn, things like this don’t have to happen.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      A good dealer is worth a lot. Spend some money on them for otherwise DIY repairs, keep them in business.

    • 0 avatar

      “Spend some money on them for otherwise DIY repairs, keep them in business.”
      Respectfully, I disagree.  I replaced the rubber flap in my toilet tank, a DIY job.  I also “installed” a low flow showerhead.  If I call a plumber for some major repair and he chooses to overcharge me for shoddy work, does that make it my fault because I didn’t call him for the $3 fixes in my toilet and shower?

  • avatar

    I guess them Hyundai dealers fall over themselves to help everybody out.
    Perhaps, I’ll let you be the judge. Wifey needed a new keyfob for her 03 Elantra. Went
    to my local Hyundai dealer fully expecting to part with $100-$200 bucks. Parts man told
    me that my fob was an older type but he might have one around. He found one, it wasn’t
    new but in very good condition, he programmed it, stuck in a new battery and gave it to
    me. When I asked, “how much?”, he said don’t worry about it, have it on the house.
    That was a nice surprise! That was 6 months ago. Just yesterday my wife picked up her
    new Elantra from the same dealer. What goes around, comes around as they say. It’s
    a lesson GM could learn if they were listening. Obviously they are not, pity.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Wade

      My wife’s Santa Fe ate a front hub at 105,000 miles. I took it in figuring a 5 or 6 hundred dollar job. They told me they had never head of that before and replaced the front hub, brake pads and brake lines, sent me on my way and no charge. She now has a new Santa Fe and I now own a Veracruz which seems to be an outstanding car. That dealer and Hyundai more than earned their money back.

      Don’t even ask me about an 07 Suburban that eats cash worse than a boat.

  • avatar

    I knew GM BK v. 2.0 was coming as soon as the ink dried on BK v.1.0







  • avatar

    Meet the new boss, same as tho old boss…….

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: I have 238,000 on my 2010. That model year statistically was one of the most reliable trucks Ford has made....
  • Art Vandelay: Yeah, rovers on Mars for 2 decades + now, probes in interstellar Space, a flyby of Pluto and dudes on...
  • Art Vandelay: It’s not agents in black helicopters trying to force me to buy myself an EV. It is Politicians...
  • ffighter69: Well in that case Ford is worst.
  • FreedMike: Car dealers tend to be a politically conservative bunch, so I suspect they might be caught up in the...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber