Consumers Paying More Attention to Recalls, Survey Finds | Edmunds

Consumers Paying More Attention to Recalls, Survey Finds

Just the Facts:
  • A recent National Automobile Dealers Association survey found that 88 percent of consumers said they are "paying more attention" to auto recalls today than in the past.
  • Increased publicity, including news feeds and other social media channels, has resulted in heightened consumer awareness.
  • GM spokesman Alan Adler told Edmunds: "Social media channels provide another avenue for consumers to contact us with questions."

McLEAN, Virginia — In a recent survey by the National Automobile Dealers Association, 88 percent of respondents said they are "paying more attention" to auto recalls today than in the past. In addition, 71 percent of those surveyed stated the opinion that "recalls have grown substantially over the past few years."

This may not be a complete surprise, since 2014 has become known as "The Year of the Recall."

According to NHTSA data, by the end of June, the number of U.S. vehicles affected by recalls this year totaled 37.5 million, a figure that already topped the previous full-year record of 30.8 million, set in 2004.

General Motors alone has accounted for more than 25 million recalls in the U.S. this year, with more than 16 million of those attributed to the widely publicized ignition-switch problems that have caused numerous crashes and claimed at least 13 lives.

While GM has received by far the most media coverage, other automakers have also contributed to the numbers. Among others, defective airbags produced by the Takata Corporation have resulted in more than 6 million vehicle recalls in 2014, from such manufacturers as BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

By comparison to the 2014 half-year total of 37.5 million, the number of vehicles by all manufacturers affected by U.S. recalls in full-year 2013 totaled 21,963,918, and in 2012, 16,219,061.

Of course, raw numbers don't tell the whole story. Total recall figures cover all types of defects, from serious safety issues to relatively minor problems, like window leaks.

But according to the NADA survey, consumers say they'll base future purchase decisions on the number of recalls they've heard about, regardless of the severity of the defect. Fully 44 percent of those surveyed said the more recalls an automaker issues, the less likely they would be to purchase a new or used vehicle by that manufacturer, even if the defect was a minor one.

On the other hand, the NADA report said, actual consumer behavior tells a different story, at least when it comes to used-vehicle sales, which are significant, because many of the recalled GM vehicles are older models.

"So far there's been only mild evidence to suggest that used GM prices are being affected by the recalls," said Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst at NADA Used Car Guide, in a statement. "Chevrolet's used car prices have been steadily gaining ground on the competition over the past few years, but we have noticed a relatively small 1-2 percentage point drop in this improving trend since April."

According to NADA, this disconnect between what consumers say and what they do may be attributed to the barrage of recall information that has hit them from both traditional sources and from social media channels, like Facebook news feeds and tweets on their Twitter accounts.

As a result, said the report, "the public has become increasingly desensitized from much of the 'noise' generated by the media."

The effect of social media has been felt in other ways as well, such as providing additional conduits for communication between manufacturers and consumers.

As GM spokesman Alan Adler told Edmunds: "Social media channels provide another avenue for consumers to contact us with questions. If we see that someone is having an issue in the more than 100 enthusiast forums we participate in or on one of our channels, we can also offer assistance. We have more than 20 dedicated social media customer assistance advisors. The team has grown from an initial group of four advisors in November 2009."

Edmunds says: The full story of the effect The Year of the Recall will have on 2014 auto sales won't be told until complete sales figures and recall numbers are posted early in 2015.

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