GM recall — her car is no longer trying to kill her | PostIndependent.com

GM recall — her car is no longer trying to kill her

Jessica Cabe
jcabe@postindependent.com
Jessica Cabe stands in front of her 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, “Midnight,” on Transfer Trail, with the lights of Glenwood Spring shining in the background, on Nov. 18. The ignition switch in Cabe’s Grand Am is under recall by GM.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

They tell me Midnight isn’t trying to kill me anymore.

My car, Midnight, is a 10-year-old Pontiac Grand Am that has been in my family since she was brand new. She was my mom’s car until a year and a half ago, when my parents generously gave her to me.

Midnight is one of the 7.6 million vehicles involved in a recent General Motors recall.

Since it can be kind of hard to keep up, considering GM has issued 54 recalls covering 29 million vehicles — 17 million for ignition problems — this year alone, the recall I’m talking about was announced in June and involves all 1997 to 2005 Chevy Malibus, 1998 to 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigues, 1999 to 2004 Oldsmobile Aleros, 1999 to 2005 Pontiac Grand Ams, 2004 to 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix, and 2000 to 2005 Chevy Impalas and Monte Carlos. This is GM’s largest recall of the year.

Midnight and I have been through a lot together. She took me from Illinois to New York for graduate school, then she took me all the way out to the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado for my first full-time job.

The problem is that if you have anything attached to your key — including the key fob — and you drive over very rough terrain or get in an accident, it’s possible the key will slip from the “run” position. If that’s the case, you could lose power steering and brakes, and your air bags may not deploy.

That’s kind of a big deal, given that it’s my first winter in the mountains, and driving off the road is not a totally inconceivable scenario.

Months ago, my dad, the car guy, forwarded me an email describing these ignition switch problems — which by now have been blamed for at least 30 deaths.

I admit I skimmed that email because I have a very “It won’t happen to me” kind of attitude. At the time, from what I remember, the email just suggested drivers of these vehicles remove anything attached to their car key ring to avoid any problems.

I didn’t hear much more about the recall until about a month ago, when I got an official notice in the mail with directions on how to get the problem fixed for free.

It was only at that point that I began to take my potential death trap seriously. I removed my car key from the rest of my key chains and felt slightly better. Information on the recall says the key won’t slip from the “run” position if there is no additional weight from other keys or the fob.

I immediately scheduled an appointment for Monday, Nov. 17. I was looking forward to getting the ignition fixed so I could have my keys all in one place and, you know, not fear for my life (at least not any more than anyone should on the road).

But nothing is ever easy. And on Thursday, Nov. 13, I got a call from the dealer saying it had run out of parts for the repair and wouldn’t get more in until the following Thursday.

This is where I got frustrated. Of course things happen. But this whole situation is becoming more and more frustrating for those of us who are affected by any of this year’s ignition switch recalls because it’s clear that GM does not have its customers’ interests in mind.

GM ordered half a million ignition switches in December 2013 but didn’t officially recall a set of vehicles until February, meaning the company knew about the problem a full two months before alerting car owners. The company was fined $35 million, the maximum amount, for its slow response.

But GM didn’t just know about this issue for two months. There’s evidence the company knew its ignition switches caused stalling 10 years ago. Between 2003 and 2006, GM redesigned switches in at least three car families but never notified owners of older models that their switches were defective.

And, apparently, those redesigns didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good, since plenty of cars from those years are involved in ignition-switch recalls.

Frustrations with GM’s shoddy ethics aside, I rescheduled for Thursday, Nov. 20, to get my Midnight fixed. I was told the repairs would take 30 to 40 minutes, but it ended up taking an hour longer than that. I sat in the waiting room frustrated and agitated, looking at my watch and worrying about the work I needed to get done that day.

But when the receptionist called my name and said Midnight was ready, all I felt was sweet relief.

Midnight and I have been through a lot together. She took me from Illinois to New York for graduate school, then she took me all the way out to the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado for my first full-time job. We’ve seen America almost coast to coast together. I knew all along she wasn’t trying to hurt me, so it felt good to know she wasn’t going to anymore.

Unless GM knows something I don’t.

Jessica Cabe is the Post Independent’s entertainment editor. She believes no monetary cost is more important than human life. She can be reached at jcabe@postindependent.com.


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