Auto Recall Database for Consumer Planned by NHTSA

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By: Martha Garcia | Published: August 15th, 2013

A new ruling by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require all auto makers to offer consumers the ability to search for recall information that may impact their vehicles through a national database.  

The agency announced the new auto recall database on Wednesday in an effort to improve the effectiveness of recalls already in place.

Automakers will have one year to establish the databases, which will also be searchable via the government website safercar.gov. The database will allow consumers to search for recall information by using a vehicle identification number, make, model or model year.

The search information will then offer owners the ability to determine if their vehicle requires a recall or has had needed recall repairs completed in the past. The service will be free of charge.

Several vehicle manufacturers already offer this service free of charge, including Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC. A similar service is also offered online at Carfax. The new policy will mandate all vehicle manufacturers abide by the ruling and provide necessary information.

All vehicle manufacturers which make more than 25,000 light vehicles annually and motorcycle makers who manufacture more than 5,000 motorcycles annually will be required to participate in the database.

Approximately 70 percent of recalled vehicles receive repairs. The remaining vehicles are never fixed, often because the owners never knew about the recall or decided not to respond to the recall.

This database offers consumers a way to check if a vehicle is subject to a recall or if the recall was addressed or fixed. The new policy will help fully inform vehicle owners and offer a renewed focus on safety for both owners and vehicle makers.

The policy will take effect August 14, 2014, giving automakers one year to comply. The system which is currently available on the government website only offers consumers the option to search via make and model, but they cannot determine if recall work has been completed.

Along with establishing the database, the NHTSA is also requiring car manufacturers to use the Department of Transportation logo when issuing recall letters to vehicle owners. The NHTS says this will “further emphasize the importance of the communication.”

The industry wide regulation will require automakers to update the database weekly. While some vehicle manufacturers already offer the recall search service, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group which represents 12 automakers, including BMW Group and General Motors, said it supported the new ruling.

The NHTSA initially proposed a ruling which would create an NHTSA website offering similar features. That proposal would require automakers to submit vehicle identification numbers to the NHTSA daily. The proposal was quickly rejected by automakers, claiming it was a “costly, burdensome” proposal and “unnecessarily duplicative.”

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