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Owners of recalled GM cars feel angry, vindicated

General Motors Co. To Recall 1.3 Million Vehicles to Repair Steering

(Reuters) - As details emerge about how General Motors Co dealt with faulty ignition switches in some of its models, car owners are increasingly angry after learning that the automaker knowingly allowed them to drive defective vehicles.

Saturn Ion owner Nancy Bowman of Washington, Michigan, said she is outraged that GM allowed her to drive a "death trap." She said her car had so many ignition problems she was afraid to resell it to an innocent buyer.

She bought the 2004 model car new and still drives it after extensive repairs and multiple run-ins with a Saturn dealer she called dismissive.

"Five times the car died right out from under me after hitting a bump in the road," she wrote in a 2013 posting on a complaint website, arfc.org, that says it sends information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

"Every time I brought it in they said it was an isolated incident. Couldn't find the problem, so they acted like I was an idiot."

GM recalled 1.6 million cars last month because a faulty ignition switch could turn off a car's engine, disable its airbags and make steering difficult. The recall involves six models from years ranging from 2003 to 2007. The problem has been linked to 12 deaths, the company says.

Documents released by GM this week revealed that the automaker knew about the ignition problem as early as 2001. Auto safety advocates say GM should have ordered a recall years ago, and GM has apologized as investigations by government agencies, Congress and the company itself have multiplied.

Angry customers are taking to social media to vent their frustrations. GM's companyFacebook "fan page" is scattered with complaints amid enthusiasts' comments and the company's updates on its activities. Comments on one post this week featuring a photo of a proud owner and his "Chevy Family" of three cars included sarcastic references about the recall.

The financial costs of the recall and GM's legal liability are still being calculated.

Under terms of its 2009 bankruptcy, the "new" GM is not responsible for any legal claims relating to incidents that took place before July 2009. But GM is facing pressure from some consumer groups that say the arrangement would be unfair to victims and want the automaker to establish a trust fund to pay compensation.

Since the recall, GM has said its customers' safety and satisfaction are top priorities.

"We are deeply sorry to our customers and for the circumstances surrounding this recall. We are doing all we can today to take care of our customers and to ensure their peace of mind," GM spokesman Greg Martin said.

GM North America President Alan Batey acknowledged last month that the length of time between the first reports of a possible defect and the recall announcement "shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been."

LONG SILENCE

The company's long silence has outraged those who endured poor service or worse.

Megan Phillips, who was the driver of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt that crashed in Wisconsin, said that until last month's recall she blamed herself for a 2006 accident in which two teenaged friends were killed when her car left the road and hit a clump of trees.

Accident investigators hired by the NHTSA found that the key had moved to the "accessory" rather than the "run" position, turning off the engine and disabling the airbags before impact. None of the girls wore seatbelts.

Phillips, 24, said that the families of her deceased friends blamed her for the crash and would not talk to her. Since the recall, Phillips said, they have begun communicating.

"I don't have the answer for them. GM has the answer for them," she said.

Phillips said she does not understand why GM did not order a recall earlier.

"I don't understand why they would wait 10 years to say something. And I want to understand it but I never will."

"REALLY RIDICULOUS"

As part of the recall, the automaker has offered $500 to owners toward buying or leasing another GM car. The recall involves 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compact cars, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion compact cars, 2006-2007 Chevy HHR midsized cars, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars.

Mike Andrews, an attorney with the Alabama firm Beasley Allen, which is weighing possible recall-related lawsuits, called GM's response "really ridiculous."

"They've known about this for years, and their response is $500," Andrews said.

Even after repairs, GM warns customers to use only the key and fob on the key ring. The weight on the key is believed to be one of the causes of the ignition jarring out of the "run" position.

The NHTSA has opened a probe into the timing of the recall, and two congressional committees plan to hold hearings. The FBI and the U.S. attorney in Manhattan are also investigating.

GM has said it is fully cooperating.

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, an engineer who took the job in January, has apologized publicly and started an internal investigation.

Fitch Ratings said in a note on Friday that the recall and federal probe may pose a risk to GM's reputation but are not likely to be a financial burden. Fitch said lawsuits could pose more of a problem for GM.

Attorney Robert Hilliard of the Texas firm Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, who is representing Phillips and other families of victims in the Wisconsin crash, said GM owners now contacting him are angered by "the insidiousness of hiding the defect."

"We're developing coalitions and associations to help in this battle," he said.

A proposed class action lawsuit was filed against GM in federal court in Texas on Friday. It claims GM knew about the problem since 2004 but failed to fix it, creating "unreasonably dangerous" conditions for drivers of the affected models.

Dennis Hillstead, a former St. Croix County sheriff who investigated the Phillips accident, said it appears "someone dropped the ball" on alerting the public.

"It's a sad commentary, perhaps, on large corporations that fail to take the public's well-being into consideration when making their decisions," he said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Additional reporting by Marilyn W. Thompson in Washington and Jessica Dye in New York, editing by Peter Henderson and Lisa Shumaker)

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jmoore1248 March 16 2014 at 6:42 PM

All cars being built now are crap.

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1 reply
Paul jmoore1248 March 16 2014 at 8:25 PM

Modern cars are so complicated that there is more things to go wrong and EXPENSIVE TO FIX !!!!! My GM junk 1991 Silverado with the 454 started running bad one day. After spending a couple hours diagnosing I determined that the ECU(ENG CONTROL UNIT) was bad. New one=$300. I found a used one for $100 and the truck runs OK now.

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porterscottages March 16 2014 at 5:50 PM

this is what happens when you constantly look for places to cut corners. not a real surprise to me. yup we bailed them out, so what? if they keep producing junk they will put themselves in to extinction--unfortunately they are paving the way for the success of honda, toyota, nissan and subaru. and at the upper end---bmw and mercedes. our country is going to hell--thanks obama for your part in this, and this is just one more symptom of a major illness. we have lost our way morally and given away to china mexico and a few others the edge we used to enjoy. no surprise to me at all.

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verde33333 March 16 2014 at 5:47 PM

They need to be used as an example that you can put out a product that kills and if you do you suffer the consequences. If we let this happen these days we are doomed, but I feel we are alot smarter these days so I have faith the authorities will bring them down and make them accountable. These people who have these cars should be compensated alot more than $500 considering people actually died I mean really.

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jsblackball March 16 2014 at 5:45 PM

i got a silverado ZR-4 INTERSEPETOR PAYED 50,000 PUT 10,555 MILE ON IT WENT TO SELL IT AND LOOKS JUST AS THE DAY I GOT IT 2013 MAY NOT A YEAR OLD THERE OFFER WAS 29,00O FOR IT ,ITS CUSTOM SS PACKAGE . IT SOUNDS TO ME THERE RIPING OFF PEOPLE LIKE ME AND OTHERS BUT IF I HAD SAID YES TO THERE OFFER . I WOULD BET THERE PRICE ON THIS TRUCK WOULD BE 42,000 . I WILL NEVER BUY GM EVER AGAIN

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1 reply
waterlakes31 jsblackball March 16 2014 at 5:49 PM

I had to read this 3 times sounds to me like youre just a dumbass!

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Gary Cangemi March 17 2014 at 10:15 AM

What do you expect from Government Motors, cream puffs? My first and last GM vehicle was a '79 Chevy Monza. When a company screws me out my hard earned money for a piece of junk, I don't come back for more of the same, not when there are other choices. GM went bankrupt for a reason. Making quality cars at a fair price wasn't it. Robbing the taxpayers to bail them out apparently didn't eliminate that reason.

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rjoh959287 March 17 2014 at 10:18 AM

The ignition component was most likely made in China

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1 reply
dpicker1 rjoh959287 March 17 2014 at 10:27 AM

Nope. Seems it was designed, manufactured and inspected in the good ol' USA. Check out this story where Mr. Smith is quoted as someone who has worked with GM to manufacture related parts and "felt guilty" because he knew the part was defective. Personally, I believe American designed and manufactured cars are a far-far cry in terms of quality and performance from many models that come from oversea. Been that way for decades.

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1 reply
sevenv dpicker1 March 17 2014 at 11:53 AM

toyotas ,Hondas ,BMWs all are assembled here...The diffirence is ,they use mostly parts that come together nicely ,many DESIGNED made and manufactored HERE in the US,(please do your research ) ......GMs problem is that they try to fit parts,of varying quality from ALL over the world,(Thanks NAFTA), into their car systems ,which when coupled with higher managements disconnected attitudes = Trouble .....

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bbr35 March 17 2014 at 10:19 AM

The Impala should be included in this recall. I have a 2005 Impala and had to replace the ignition switch myself because it wasn't under warranty anymore when the problems started occurring. After some research I found plenty of other people having the same problem. A security light would come on the message center and if that happened it was only a matter of time until your car would not start. The only temporary solution other than replacing the part was to wait 10 minutes and try to start it again. This would usually work and the problem would go away for a week or so. Then it would happen again. It got to the point where it was a daily occurrence instead of weekly. Now my issue with the ignition switch is a minor inconvenience in comparison with what some of these other people experienced but I know for a fact that more models were affected than what they are saying. And I agree that a $500 off a purchase or lease of a new vehicle is a joke.

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1 reply
oldmandowntown2 bbr35 March 17 2014 at 10:58 AM

Contact NewRockies to fix your problem, as long as your ignition switch is okay it will by-pass the rest of the start system. The unit cost only $179 and is very easy to install. Most local parts stores you can buy a replacement ignition switch allot cheaper than at a dealership. An the switch does not need re-programed to the computer to work either.

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mavc130h2 March 17 2014 at 10:21 AM

It doesn't matter whether it is GM, Toyota, or even Krispy Kreme. Corporations have an ethical responsibility to keep the public safe in regards to its products. Unfortunately, companies have a history or weighing the cost of lawsuits and litigation vs the cost of the recall, which is a absolutely horrific practice. Almost all colleges include a Business Ethics class in their Business programs, yet it seems to be the most disregarded by the CEOs when it comes to their company profits. Disgraceful.

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oldslori March 17 2014 at 10:22 AM

I got my recall letter from GM and the first thing it says is "Do not call the Dealership, Parts are currently unavailable". They knew about this problem for how long and they didn't think to make sure they had the parts on hand to fix it, ridiculous.

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carl March 17 2014 at 10:23 AM

i have a 99 chevy malibu that i had to have the egnition switch replaced. dealer said it was caused by the weight of extra keys on the ring. cost me 525.00 to replace it it did the same as all the others quit running , and had to wait 20 minutes before it would start again,

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1 reply
posthuf carl March 17 2014 at 10:42 AM

You could have replace that switch yourself for a lot less and in about 20 minutes. They make it seem supernatural and tell you you need all kinds of special training, but I did mine in the parking lot at work on my lunch break.

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