Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,
In this age of all-pervasive media, it’s difficult to fathom that there are still millions of people out there who obviously tune it all out, or at least enough of it on a selective basis, as to ignore urgent issues.
No, we’re not talking about boneheaded blowhard political posters on social media, but rather the overwhelming number of Americans who are putting themselves and their families at risk by blowing off safety-related recalls. It’s as if the high-profile debacles the last two years regarding General Motors’ faulty ignition switches and Takata’s deadly airbags never happened.
According to data compiled by J.D. Power & Associates, more than 45 million vehicles that were the subject of safety recalls issued have NOT been brought in for covered repairs.
Why are consumers ignoring what could be life-or-death recalls? Some observers wonder if the overwhelming number of recalls over the past few years has had a numbing effect on motorists. More than 51 million vehicles were recalled and the numbers keep increasing, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is not only more than in any previous year, it far outstrips the 17.5 million light-duty cars and trucks that were sold over the same 12-month period.
As it turns out, it’s far more complicated than that. J.D. Power examined data sourced from NHTSA, as well as its own Safety IQ service, and discovered that a vehicle’s age and style, and the type and sheer scope of a given safety-related recall have the most sway over whether or not a given repair is, in fact, ever completed.
“The steady surge in recalls, combined with NHTSA’s stated goal of 100 percent recall completion rates have made the number of un-remedied recalls still on the road a critical statistic for automakers and dealers,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. Automotive at J.D. Power. “By understanding the behavioral trends of vehicle owners, as well as recall completion rates among different vehicle and recall types, as an industry we can better tailor communications to improve those completion rates.”
Here’s what J.D. Power found:
Higher-volume recall campaigns are the most likely to go unheeded. The completion rates for recalls that affect more than 1 million is 49 percent, compared to 67 percent for recalls involving fewer than 10,000 units.
The Takata airbag recall, for example, has reportedly affected 32 million vehicles thus far, which makes it a daunting challenge not only to notify vehicle owners that their vehicles are being recalled, but to ensure dealer service departments have the parts on hand to fix the affected cars and trucks. This has been the issue for many repair shops — many recalls state that “the remedy is not available.”
Older models are less likely to have their recalls remedied. Vehicles from the 2013 through 2017 model years are more likely to be taken in for recall work than are cars manufactured between 2003 and 2007. Newer models boast a 73 percent completion rate, while their older counterparts were only brought in for recall fixes just 44 percent of the time.
Large work vans and compact premium SUVs are the most likely to have their recalls remedied, at about 86 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, mid-premium sports cars and large SUVs have the lowest completion rates at about 32 percent. While vans are business assets and are obviously being treated as such, there’s no good reason why the owner of a modestly priced sports car – who probably babies his or her ride more than most – would fail to heed an important recall notice.
The types of recalls most likely to be completed involve repairs to a vehicle’s power train (at 71 percent), followed by the electrical system (62 percent) and brakes (66 percent), all critical components. Most often ignored are issues with a vehicle’s suspension, with only 48 percent fixed and – curiously, given their critical role in automotive safety – airbags at 47 percent resolved.
When a recall is issued the manufacturer is required to contact every owner of record for that particular model by mail. However, this usually excludes second or third owners, which helps explain why older models have a higher percentage of uncorrected recalls. To that end, NHTSA maintains a free online database that allows consumers to determine if cars they currently own – as well as those they’re considering buying in the resale market or are renting (the latter being an issue that’s woefully overlooked) – are at risk because of uncorrected safety-related recalls.