Promotional knickknacks are a weighty matter

No key ring tags, GM tells dealers

Promotional knickknacks are a weighty matter

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In Dearborn, the mantra is "One Ford."

At General Motors, it seems to be "One Key."

And in its recall-induced quest to strip customers' key chains of any dangling tchotchkes that could help jostle or bump the ignition out of position, GM has raised the alarm about something many dealerships have been giving customers for decades: promotional key tags.

"GM is requesting that dealers no longer place rigid items, such as leather or plastic tags, on vehicle key rings," the automaker wrote in an "urgent" notice that it said applies to all vehicles.

The warning perplexed Grant Stoddart, CEO of Sharp Performance USA, which sells millions of leather and metal key tags to dealers every year.

GM notice to dealers
"GM is requesting that dealers no longer place rigid items, such as leather or plastic tags, on vehicle key rings."

"I can understand their concern and their being cautious, but I'm not sure that telling their dealers to do this is going to help," he said. "Customers like to get something free, and dealers like to get their name out there. To our knowledge, there's never been an issue in the past and no other manufacturer has raised any concerns." 

In addition to being an ad, some key tags have barcodes linked to loyalty programs, provide a phone number for roadside assistance or help the keys get returned if lost. 

GM spokesman Alan Adler said the move originated at GM Canada, which decided that key tags "were not consistent with the 'single key' initiative, and the U.S. adopted it from there." He added: "Since the ignition recalls began, we have been encouraging people to drive with a single key and nothing else on their key ring." 

Adler said the decision was "not intended to address knee bump" issues but declined to explain it further. Federal regulators, who posted the July 18 notice online this month, labeled it a "dealer communication to reduce key ring weight." 

But the notice says dealers who still feel it necessary to attach a key tag or other item can do so if they add a small auxiliary ring -- which would add more weight -- as long as the item is "small, light and no larger than" a keyless-entry transmitter. 

GM's recommendation that customers empty their key chains, even after any recall repairs have been completed, was mocked by comedian Jon Stewart. "Here's your problem with the car here," he said, imitating a mechanic. "You have a house. You sell that and any other locked devices, and your car should run, no problem."

You can reach Nick Bunkley at nbunkley@crain.com. -- Follow Nick on Twitter

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