General Motors Co. (GM) has notified its dealers that they may provide owners of models identified as having the ignition switch defect with towing service, a loaner car and an offer of a $500 cash allowance on the purchase of a new 2013, 2014 or 2015 model Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac. The company filed the offer with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) on March 4, and the agency posted it on its website Wednesday morning.
According to the notice, "dealer service management is empowered to place the customer into a courtesy vehicle until parts are available to repair the vehicle." If customers do not wish to drive their cars to the dealership, the company has also authorized dealers to have the car towed at no charge.
The $500 cash allowance will be available to owners of the affected models "at the time of the transaction and is in addition to other national and regional offers." The catch is that GM "will not market or solicit these customers" to take advantage of the cash offer, and the company "asks that [dealers] not market to or solicit these customers either. This allowance is not a sales tool; it is to be used to help customers in need of assistance."
GM said it began mailing notices to owners of the 1.6 million affected cars on March 10 and that it expects to have parts available to begin making repairs by about April 7.
The problem is that the weight of the key ring, perhaps coupled with road conditions, may cause the ignition switch to be jarred from the run position, turning off the engine and shutting down the car's electrical power, which causes the airbags to fail to deploy. So far this defect has been implicated in 13 deaths and an uncounted number of injuries.