(Updates with Texas hearing in the sixth paragraph.)
March 27 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. said inquiries to a customer call center in Warren, Michigan, have more than doubled during peak hours since the automaker recalled 1.6 million small cars with faulty ignition switches linked to a dozen deaths.
The so-called Customer Engagement Center, which opened last year as part of a broader effort by GM to boost customer retention and improve service, faces its first big test as the Detroit-based automaker helps customers deal with the recall.
Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra will go before U.S. House and Senate committees next week to face questions about why it took so long to recall the troubled vehicles. The initial recall on Feb. 13 covered 778,562 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s and was widened less than two weeks later by more than 800,000 additional vehicles.
Barra took to GM’s website this week to tell customers the vehicles remain safe to drive with only the key. Alicia Boler- Davis, senior vice president for global quality and customer experience, today posted a new message about GM’s efforts to assist customers with its call center.
“Since GM announced the ignition switch recall, the center has seen more than double the amount of calls during peak times from typical daily call volumes,” Boler-Davis wrote in a message. “Up to 100 dedicated, specially trained advisors have been available to quickly assist customers with questions on this issue alone, bringing down the average wait time to less than a minute.”
Separately, a Texas federal judge will hold a hearing April 4 in a proposed group lawsuit against GM on whether the carmaker should issue a so-called “park it now” alert to drivers of the defective vehicles.
In a letter sent today to Barra, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, urged the company to immediately “issue a stronger warning to drivers,” including a notice not to operate recalled cars.
--With assistance from Patrick G. Lee in New York.