In a bid to improve customer and public relations, General Motors (GM), which is recalling some 1.6 million automobiles due to faulty ignition switches, has partnered with Avis, Enterprise and Hertz to offer affected owners free rental cars with insurance while their vehicles are being repaired. GM has even waived its policy of only renting its own products, meaning some GM customers will be driving competitors’ cars while theirs are being fixed.
Autoblog.com reports drivers who don’t feel safe in their recalled vehicles can bring them to their local GM dealer and get a loaner car for the duration of their repairs. In addition to paying for the rental vehicles, GM is also shelling out for additional insurance if their customers’ insurance won’t cover the rentals.
“We’re trying to offer extraordinary assistance to our customers to minimize the inconvenience,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain.
According to the Detroit News, several thousand GM owners have taken advantage of the offer so far.
GM will begin replacing faulty ignition switches on more than 1.6 million vehicles beginning April 7. Delphi, the company that manufactures the replacement switches, has added a second assembly line to keep up with demand.
The problem with the faulty parts is that they can be inadvertently switched from the ‘on’ to the ‘accessory’ or ‘off’ position when hit by drivers’ knees or in the event of a front-end collision, resulting in engine shutdown and steering difficulty. The faulty switches have resulted in at least 31 crashes and 12 fatalities, and Congress is investigating the matter.
“So far there are serious questions emerging about what GM knew, when GM knew it and when it informed the public,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). “Why did they take so long to alert investigators and the public?”
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that GM knew all about the fatal flaw but continued to mislead grieving victims’ families. In one particular case, the auto giant threatened to litigate against the family of one victim for recovery of legal fees if a lawsuit against the company was not withdrawn.
“They sent us a letter… telling us to drop our case or else they’d come after us,” said William Jordan, an attorney for a South Carolina family in which two members crashed a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt due to a faulty ignition.
General Motors says it is doing everything it can to resolve the issue, and that providing free rental cars with insurance is a step in that direction.
“We are doing our best to get this right,” the company said in a statement.