GM recall repairs could take weeks for some in western Pennsylvania

A service technician can make the repair in about an hour.

But the owners of Chevy Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars included in a General Motors ignition switch recall can expect to wait for weeks for the repairs to be made while dealers wait for parts.

GM dealers, both in western Pennsylvania and around the nation, are working to install new parts on about 2.6 million cars included in a massive recall, prompted by claims that keys can turn themselves off, leaving cars without power brakes, power steering and even air bags.

Norman Poniatowski, a GE Transportation retiree who lives in Summit Township, said he was breathing a sigh of relief after a local GM dealership replaced the ignition switch Monday on a 2007 Cobalt he bought for his granddaughter.

Poniatowski said the car turned off twice in recent months, including once when the car lost brakes and slid through a stop sign.

Poniatowski said he was satisfied with his dealer, but unhappy with GM, which didn't provide parts for several months after he first contacted the company in January.

The good news is that the repair process seems to be gathering speed.

Rick Walker, the service manager and an owner of Walker Brothers Buick Chevrolet in Edinboro, said that earlier this year it was taking months for the parts to arrive from GM.

Now, he said, the wait is about a month from the time a customer contacts his dealership.

"I hope it gets faster, and I think it will now because they (GM) are gearing up production," he said.

GM had fixed nearly 200,000 recalled cars and dealers had received 400,000 repair kits as of June 16, according to a report published Tuesday in AutoWeek.

Tim Betts, service manager of Community Chevrolet near Meadville, said customers there are waiting four to six weeks to have repairs made.

The delay isn't for lack of effort, Betts said, explaining that technicians are coming to work early and staying late to replace switches at a rate of 60 or 70 a week.

"Whatever we can do to accommodate the customer," Betts said. "We try to pick them up or anything we possibly can. They have been through enough already. We don't need to add stress to their lives."

GM, which has suffered a challenge to its reputation in recent months, is making moves to hasten the repair process. The company is offering service and parts managers $250 in credit redeemable at an online gift shop if they can install at least 90 percent of the ignition switch replacement kits by July 7, Automotive News reported.

Betts said the company is also paying for rental cars for owners who don't feel comfortable driving their cars until the repairs are made.

Walker said, however, that most of his customers have continued to drive their old cars.

"I think a lot of people are taking this in stride," he said.

Copyright 2014 - Erie Times-News, Pa.

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