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GM to offer loaner cars, cash to small-car owners

DETROIT — General Motors is offering free loaner cars and $500 toward a new GM vehicle to more than a million owners of compact cars that are being recalled for a deadly ignition switch defect.

But the owners have to ask in order to get the benefits.

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The offers, disclosed in a document posted Wednesday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, are effective immediately. Owners will be able to use the loaner cars until parts arrive at dealerships to replace the faulty switches. They are expected around April 7, GM said.

The $500 cash allowance offer runs through April 30.

GM last month announced the recall of 1.6 million older small cars worldwide because faulty ignitions can shut off engines unexpectedly. If the engines shut off, drivers can lose power steering and power brakes, and the air bags may not inflate if there’s a crash.

GM now counts 12 people as having died in crashes linked to the problem. The company said Wednesday that one victim had been double-counted.

GM is facing a Department of Justice investigation, as well as investigations from two congressional committees and federal safety regulators over its handling of the recall. The company has admitted it knew about the problem a decade ago.

The loaner-rebate program is part of GM’s damage control efforts. Shares of GM have fallen 7.3 percent this week, including 0.9 percent Wednesday to $34.86.

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