VIDEO: A Look At General Motors' Satisfaction Guarantee

September 24, 2009

General Motors' new "60-Day Satisfaction Guarantee" (pitched by new CEO Ed Whitacre in the TV spot above) has sparked a good bit of comment, both positive and negative. Those in support of the policy argue that GM has finally taken notice of customer-oriented programs offered by its competitors (e.g. Hyundai Assurance), which have proven popular with the general public and often stimulated sales without hurting the bottom line.

On the other hand, detractors argue that the gist of Hyundai's Assurance program is that the company will take back cars if the buyer loses his or her job. GM's plan, on the other hand, allows customers to return their vehicles for any reason at all -- whether it's because they lost their job, they can't afford the note, or they just hate the placement of the passenger-side cupholder. That would seem to open up GM to significant losses.

In the fine print of GM's offer, we find even more reason to love and hate the program. Of note: vehicles can't be returned within the first 30 days of ownership, only between day 31 and a 60. Also, vehicles can't be returned if they've sustained more than $200 in damages (as evaluated by the staff at your General Motors dealership). Additional stipulations require that the vehicle have less than 4,000 miles on the odometer; that there can be only one return per household; that to be eligible, owners have to be current on payments; and that there's no refund if the owner dies. And of course, and if you made a trade-in at the time of purchase, you may or may not get your original vehicle back, depending on whether it's been sold and how much the dealer likes you.

Naysayers could argue that all those pesky details make GM's offer seem disingenuous while still allowing plenty of room for returns. Conversely, people who like the program could insist that the plan's parameters are reasonable and that they give GM the aura of caring about the customer (even if that care comes with lots of strings attached). They might also argue that concerns about GM losing money on the program are misplaced, because returns will likely be few and far between, thanks to all those stipulations.

In the end, pro-GMers may win the day on this one since the biggest argument against the program -- i.e. that it will cost GM money -- is countered by the insurance policy that GM purchased to cover the expense of reimbursements. That said, if we were in the market for GM vehicle, we might prefer the $500 rebate instead of the return guarantee.


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