WASHINGTON — Consumers who have a relationship with their dealer participate in recalls more often than those who don't, according to a new survey by the Auto Alliance and the Association of Global Automakers.
In addition, people who service their vehicles at a dealership respond to safety recalls more than those who take their vehicle for service elsewhere, the study found.
The survey provides insights on consumer behavior in an era of record recalls, including the massive recall for defective Takata airbags and the looming recall of Volkswagen diesel vehicles with "defeat devices" that are rigged to pass strict emissions tests but spew pollution in everyday use.
The research was launched to help understand why roughly 25 percent of owners of recalled vehicles never complete the free repair.
A key finding is that many consumers are doing their own "risk assessments" when they receive a recall notice. In other words, they decide if the recall seems important enough to schedule a service appointment.
"Many survey respondents showed a reduced likelihood to repair a recalled vehicle if they perceived the recall to be 'low' or 'moderate' risk, saying it seemed to be ?no big deal,'" the Auto Alliance said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. "Used vehicle owners are less likely to be motivated to respond to recall communications, even when they are aware of a recall on their vehicle."
Survey respondents said they are likely to skip a recall fix if the parts needed to fix the issue are not yet available or the owner didn't have time to make the repair.
Suggestions for improving the recall repair rate include ranking the severity of recalls, sending a bolder notice that stands out and mentions a free repair, and a reminder on car-insurance notices.
The national online survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies.
The research firm is now conducting interviews with employees at dealerships who are "very involved in responding to recalls" and consumers who have not responded to a recall.
Edmunds says: Little public opinion research has been conducted about what motivates consumers to get a recalled vehicle fixed. This new survey may convince consumers about the need to bring their vehicle into a dealership for a free recall repair.