I hesitated to post this because I did not want to make this blog all negative and ranty, but I think it’s important to post about things like this so that they end up in better positioning on Google for others who might be searching for similar experiences. So, here we go. The following is what I’ve sent to a couple consumer complaint sites.
After reading a recent Consumer Affairs article about GM engine fires, I feel compelled to write with my experience. I drive a 2004 Cadillac SRX, which is under warranty through GM and has not been modified in any way.
On June 16th, 2008, I was leaving the grocery store when I smelled smoke in my vehicle. I drove approximately 20 feet from the building to see if I was pulling smoke in from an outside source, but when I was outside in the fresh air, I noticed that smoke was beginning to pour out of my vents.
I left the vehicle and walked around trying to determine the source of the smoke. I opened the rear lift gate and found thick gray smoke pouring from the area behind the windshield wiper. It seemed to be the source of the smoke.
At that point I called OnStar emergency services and they dispatched police and fire to my location. While on the line with OnStar, flames became visible from beneath the inside lift gate trim panel. The flames were approximately the size of the grapefruit and were partially blocked by the trim panel.
Wiper fluid and melted plastic were dripping from the lift gate on to the bumper and into the interior of my vehicle. The wind was blowing into the vehicle and because I was concerned that the flames might move into the interior of the car, I made the decision to use my large drink to put out the fire before it got any larger.
I successfully doused the fire about 30 seconds before the fire department arrived. They disassembled the rear lift gate down to the wiper motor, which appeared to be the source of the fire.
The damage includes the entire lift gate door and trim, the wiper motor and circuit board, the rear bumper, and possibly the upholstered cover of the cargo area.
I am now on day 11 of GM “investigating” the issue. They refuse to accept it as a warranty claim and instead have passed me through to the “product allegation” department where they did nothing but record my name and basic information for 2 days before passing me to another department. The other department says they need 7-10 business days to decide what they will do with the issue and I am not allowed to have any contact information for them unless they have not contacted me in 10 business days.
Through all of this, I am being denied a rental car and they are holding my vehicle at the dealer, apparently having told the dealer to park it outside of their garage for safety reasons.
I understand their need to investigate this claim. However, their refusal to offer me a rental car while they hold my vehicle is unacceptable and the only part of the situation that I do not understand.
I would gladly give them all the time in the world if they could step up and stand behind their products and policies by giving me a rental car during their investigation. While my car sits at the dealer baking in the sun, not being aired out and still smelling of burning plastic and metal, my family is missing out on our summer plans.
As residents of Janesville, WI we are duly impacted by the recent GM plant closings that will undoubtedly lower our property values, raise our taxes, and cause closings and cost increases for local businesses. I understand that they are having a tough year, but this is pennies in the grand scheme. I want this company to stand behind their product and show me that customer service is not dead.
It’s clearly a warranty issue and I should clearly be given a vehicle to drive while they are holding my car and not actively investigating or working on it.
UPDATE: 6/27/2008, GM claims department called to tell me that at some point in the future, they will be dispatching one of their 5 or 6 engineers to Janesville to take pictures of my car and investigate the issue. The engineers will provide a report to claims, claims will meet with legal, then legal will take some time deciding whether or not they are going to fix my car, then legal will get back in touch with claims and claims will call me. They give me no indication of how long this process takes, only that is it “lengthy.”
UPDATE: 10/22/2008, I realized that I never came back to update this issue. Since it has risen to the top of Google under some GM related keywords, I thought I should just finish this up so that anyone who finds it knows the result.
Earlier in my blog I mentioned that GM did eventually get me a rental car. For several weeks I drove a very lame Chevy minivan. After throwing a bit of a tantrum that I’m still not very proud of, the very understanding agent at GM’s insurer apparently went to GM’s legal department and got me a better rental car. For the last few weeks of the investigation, I did have a comparable rental car.
They eventually did “settle” with me for the cost of the repairs, but I had to sign away my life in agreement that they were not at fault for the damage. Obviously they could have saved a TON of money in rentals, legal fees, investigators, etc if they had just fixed it in the beginning (it was just over $2,000 in damage), but I’m not surprised that they were willing to waste the time and money.
The entire process took 2 1/2 months from the date of the incident. Only time will tell if fire damage will show up on my carfax report, rendering this car untradeable.