The next time you’re in your car, think about oncoming drivers who haven’t had their recalled vehicles repaired.
The odds are good that you’ll meet several. We’ve all heard about the General Motors recall of 2.6 million vehicles for ignition switch problems. Toyota recently recalled about 1.3 million vehicles sold in the U.S. because air bags might not inflate.
Automakers are on a pace that could total a record number of recalls in a decade. However, industry experts estimate that one-third of all recalled vehicles do not get the repairs they should. Of all vehicles on the road, one in seven may be operating with a defect that should have been remedied after a recall.
What should happen after a recall is simple. Owners take their cars to an authorized dealer, who makes needed repairs for free (the dealer is reimbursed by the manufacturer and so is eager to handle recall work). What really happens, in many cases, is that owners don’t get the work done.
If the car is under warranty, owners are more likely to have recall work performed. But some suspect dealers of looking for more things that may or may not need fixing, so they stay away.
Some consumers may figure they can simply “beat the odds” and keep driving, guessing that the chances of a recalled defect causing them a problem are minimal to nonexistent.
The people driving cars needing recall work also may not know that a recall has been issued. That’s likely if they’re the second or third owners of a vehicle.
There’s a huge resale market for used vehicles; if an owner doesn’t act on a recall notice and sells a vehicle, there’s no way for the buyer to know.
Our highly mobile society is another factor. If a car owner moves, a recall notice might not catch up to a new address. New or prospective owners have not been able to trace a single vehicle’s recall history, but that’s about to change.
Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it’s requiring manufacturers of cars, light trucks and motorcycles to create searchable databases on company websites. This will allow consumers to search by Vehicle Identification Number to see whether a recall has been issued and whether a particular vehicle has been fixed.
While some companies have already set up sites, data is supposed to be available for all vehicles by mid-August and is to be updated weekly. It will also be available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, www.safercar.gov.
Another problem may be in the appearance of recall notices. Some consumers may have received them in the mail and tossed them, thinking they were junk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires a red-boxed, all-caps banner stating IMPORTANT SAFETY RECALL INFORMATION, alongside National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation logos.
For your safety and everyone else’s, if you receive a recall notice, act on it.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.