Federal and State Efforts Aim To Improve Outstanding Recall Repair Rates

Nearly 30 percent of all recalled vehicles go unrepaired in the United States, according to a new report that highlights problems with the current system for automobile manufacturers announcing safety recalls and notifying to vehicle owners. 

A new recall safety report issued by the Detroit Free Press found that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data estimates that nearly 1 out of every 3 recall repairs are not completed, creating preventable safety hazards on U.S. roadways.

Last year, the NHTSA documented a record number of recalls issued across the U.S., with more than 53 million vehicles involved in 927 separate recalls, for a variety of defects that posed serious crash hazards and may increase the risk of life-threatening injury.

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Although 2016 was a record year for recalls, the NHTSA indicates that the number of vehicle recalls has increased for five consecutive years, with 582 recalls in 2012, impacting 16,486,229 vehicles; 629 recalls in 2013, impacting 20,260,191 vehicles; 775 recalls in 2014 impacting 50,227,771 vehicles; 869 recalls in 2015, impacting 51,063,372 vehicles; and 927 recalls in 2016, impacting 53,194,177 vehicles.

More than 190 million vehicles have been recalled since 2012, suggesting that at least 57 million recalled vehicles remain on U.S. roadways that have never been repaired, but could be fixed free of charge if owners took them to certified dealers.

Agencies including the NHTSA and the National Safety Council (NSC) have taken steps to promote awareness of open recalls and encourage owners to schedule free recall repairs to improve highway safety.

The NSC recently announced that it will be working with Fiat Chrysler Automotive and the National Automobile Dealers Association on a national outreach campaign, which would be designed to notify owners if their vehicles are under recall. The group has set up a website that redirects to the NHTSA web page for owners to enter their vehicle model or vehicle identification number to verify if their vehicle is included in any open recalls.

A recent survey by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked more than 1,500 vehicle owners about factors that influence owners to act on recall repair notifications. They found that only 64 percent of owners who had received a recall notice in the previous two years had actually had their vehicles repaired, while 30 percent stated they intended to have it fixed, and five percent reported not intending to have the recall repaired at all.

The survey also found the newer the vehicle, and the more severe the defect risk was, the more likely the owner was to seek repairs.

The NHTSA recently announced the first “FAST Act” grant,  which will assist in administrative costs associated with notifying vehicle purchasers at the time of registration about any open or existing recalls on the vehicle. That grant was awarded to the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration,

The $222,300 grant is designed to help the state implement the necessary actions needed at motor vehicle administrative offices to notify those registering newly purchased used vehicles of any open safety recalls on the particular vehicle.

As part of program, Maryland will determine whether there are open recalls on all the motor vehicles registered by the state, and will notify owners and lessees of the open recalls at the time of registration, free of charge. The free notifications will also provide owners and lessees with a brief description of the defect, the nature of the recall, and inform the owner or lessee that the remedy should be obtained immediately at the manufacturer’s authorized dealer.


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