GM sets up new parts-ordering system for recall repairs

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DETROIT -- General Motors today gave its dealers a revised ordering process that the retailers said should speed the shipment of parts, ease repairs and ensure the job gets done right.

But dealers said they aren’t any closer to knowing when they will start getting parts for the millions of vehicles involved in an ignition-switch recall.

“This is very specific, very precise,” said Jim Paul, co-owner of Valley Automotive Group in Apple Valley, Minn. “They are shoring up the loose ends and we appreciate that level of being specific.”

He added, “But now ship us the parts!”

GM told its dealers during a Web conference this morning that starting today, they are to order repair parts by submitting an affected customer’s vehicle identification number to GM’s order bank, dealers said.

Elevated priority

GM’s system will recognize the order as an ignition-switch repair and automatically give it priority status, said dealers who participated in the Web conference.

Typically, dealers go through many steps before an order is given priority status, they said.

Dealers can submit as many as 50 orders a day, they said.

“I’ve been a dealer a long time and I’ve never seen it handled this way before,” said John Medved, CEO of Medved Autoplex in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Usually dealers order parts in bulk, not specifically per vehicle, Medved said.

“GM may have gone ahead and taken a little bit more time, but to me it sounds like they thought out everything, so the opportunity for a snafu will be minimal,” he said.

A GM spokesman wrote in an e-mail: “Our dealers have been doing a great job taking care of customers during this recall, ensuring their safety and minimizing inconvenience. We held a meeting to thank them and let them know that we expect parts availability will build continuously throughout the spring and summer.”

New letters

GM also told dealers it would send another wave of letters this week to more customers affected by the recalls, the retailers said.

Dealers said they have been in touch with customers and will more aggressively reach out to those in their databases who likely need the recall repairs now that GM has set up the new parts-ordering process.

“It’s much easier for our guys now,” said a dealer who spoke anonymously. “It saves an incredible amount of time. A lot of the parts guys say when they put in the initial order and wanted to get to the [priority] level, they’d get a recording that basically said, ‘We’re too busy to do this.’”

Lynn Thompson, co-owner of Thompson Motor Sales in Springfield, Mo., said that automatically making the order a priority means “it’ll get through as quickly as possible.” It also ensures that GM gets the right parts shipped in one package to a dealer for a complete and correct repair for each recalled vehicle.

“We know that and it’s what’s best for everybody,” Thompson said.

Paul, of Valley Automotive Group, noted that repair levels vary with recalled models. “Some will need the lock cylinder. Some will need more than that. Some need a regular key. Some need a programmed key. So they do that by VIN and send the appropriate parts per vehicle,” Paul said.

How soon?

But some dealers said this change should have been done sooner.

During the nearly hourlong conference, the most commonly asked question from dealers was, “When are my switches coming?” the retailers said.

GM could not say how quickly dealers will get parts once the retailers submit a VIN or how many months could be needed to complete all recall repairs, dealers said.

“The 800-pound gorilla now is, how fast are the parts coming?” Paul said. “We know how to do the repairs. The only loose end is, let’s get them in and let’s get them done.”

GM has recalled 2.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches. It has also said it would take a $1.3 billion charge to first-quarter earnings because of recall issues affecting 7 million vehicles worldwide.

GM had said it started shipping parts to repair vehicles with faulty ignition switches on April 11. But many dealers have not yet received the parts.

Right way

On Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra said GM was working to ensure it supplies high-quality parts to dealers for the repairs to the recalled vehicles.

She declined to address a request by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., calling for GM to disclose the number of ignition switches and lock replacement parts shipped to date. Blumenthal also wanted GM to provide a timeline of when all dealers would receive the repair parts.

Dealers who took part in today’s Web conference said GM did not disclose the number of parts it has shipped to date or how many repairs have been done.

But dealer Paul said he received a “handful” parts this week and GM told him not to do any repairs until after today’s Web conference.

“It’s the right way to do it. When GM crosses a customer off the list, they cross them off the list now. There’s no discretion by a mechanic as to what you should do or not do,” Paul said. “On things such as this, we’d just as soon not be the decision-makers. We don’t build it or design it. Why should we redesign it when it’s here?”

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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