The latest data from Carfax has indicated that roughly 50 million U.S. vehicles presumed to still be in operation still have outstanding recalls that have yet to be addressed. Though the good news is that this represents a 6 percent decline from 2021 and a meaningful 19 percent drop against 2017.
Still, the metrics may not be wholly down to better communication on the part of the manufacturer and people taking recall notices more seriously. Between 2013 and 2015, the average number of U.S. vehicles and equipment subjected to recalls per year went from 26.3 million to 83.6 million. While the annual averages have come back down since, recalls have remained substantially higher than in decades past.
This is often attributed to vehicles becoming more complicated and boasting additional features and new types of powertrains their predecessors lacked, raising the statistical likelihood that something might go wrong. There were also several truly massive global recalls that took place within the timeframe — most notably the Takata airbag scandal that resulted in over a dozen fatalities and hundreds of injuries. However, the surging figures similarly coincide with new regulatory efforts focusing on vehicle emissions. There’s hardly enough to account for the increase in its entirety, though more than enough to have helped influence the final figures.
Meanwhile, Carfax is preoccupied with how to get the word out and encourage customers to act on necessary vehicle repairs.
“The goal is to get the information out there. But why aren’t people coming in? That’s probably the hardest question to answer,” Faisal Hasan, general manager of data and public policy at Carfax, told Automotive News.
Takata airbags and “do not drive” recalls are the most common open recalls today, Hasan said. About 67 million Takata airbag inflators have been under recall in the U.S. for several years because of a potentially lethal defect linked to at least 19 deaths and 400 injuries.
“There’s no question that the Takata airbag continues to be an issue. That continues to be really key, and folks need to pay attention to that, and they need to check their VINs,” Hasan said. “You also get a lot of ‘do not drives,’ and those are usually small sets of VINs. Those have been constant in the past couple of years.
Dealers are attempting several solutions to bring more people into the service department to get issues fixed, said Hasan.
“Consumers today are inundated with all types of emails and stuff coming to your house. We have a tendency to throw that stuff away, to delete an email,” he said.
That feels like a sound argument. If you’ve had an email account for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly noticed it filling up with spam over the last few years. It’s getting harder to parse through the garbage to find something that may actually be relevant. Considering the increase in robocalls and text scams, the same is becoming true of phones.
One possible solution to this, according to Carfax, is to better integrate with government actors. Hasan suggested that people will be less likely to throw away mail if they “believe it is from a professional entity” (just watch me) and that the company has partnered with numerous state DMVs to help contact the affected parties.
“When you get a note, an email, anything from the DMV related to your car, your insurance company, maybe through financing the car from your bank, you’re probably going to immediately open that to see what’s going on,” Hasan said. “The more touch points we can create, good ones like those, that’s how we get people to come in and close their recalls.”
[Image: Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock]
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