For dealers, General Motors' record barrage of safety recalls is a startling, confusing, aggravating logistical headache.
It's also potentially lucrative.
Much of the $1.7 billion that GM has carved out to cover the cost of 30 recalls so far this year will flow to its dealerships for repair work and reimbursement for loaner vehicles. As millions of customers pull into service lanes for recall fixes, service advisers will get the chance to sell, say, new brake rotors to a customer waiting on a replacement seat-belt cable or steering column.
"There's no question that the dealers have a big upsell opportunity here," says Richard Gonzales, service director at Vera Motors in Pembroke Pines, Fla., which sells Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles.
Even so, GM's recall wave has been jarring for dealers. Over four days this month, GM disclosed 10 recalls ranging from the 2004 Chevrolet Aveo to its glitzy redesigned 2015 Cadillac Escalade. So far this year, GM is calling back a record 13.8 million U.S. vehicles (some are counted more than once because they've been recalled for multiple repairs). Among those are 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars recalled to fix faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths.
Many dealers are frustrated by delayed repair parts. They have been forced to stop deliveries on several key models, tying up lot space with unsellable vehicles. And many dealers worry that the recall onslaught is turning GM into a punch line. A recent USA Today cartoon showed a GM dealer trying to sell a pickup loaded with papers: "It's great for hauling recall notices," he tells the customer.
"This is a weird thing. We haven't had this many recalls in history," says Cort Johnson, service manager for Larry H. Miller Chevrolet in Murray, Utah. He thinks it will be a few months before the effect on GM's brands becomes clearer.
"My concern is that two years from now, I'll feel the impact in service due to a negative impact on sales," Johnson says.