WASHINGTON — Federal safety regulators, dealers and automakers are working together to boost recall completion rates, in part through a better understanding of what happens when vehicle owners get a recall notice.
Federal safety regulators are calling for more customer and dealer outreach, speedier parts availability and greater collaboration among regulators, suppliers and automakers.
"Recalls are only successful and can only save lives if they end up getting the cars fixed, but we know that 20 percent of vehicles that are recalled — possibly more than that — go unrepaired," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This is a safety risk to the drivers of those vehicles and all the people they share the road with, too."
NHTSA marked a record year in 2014, with the highest number of vehicle recalls in more than 30 years. There were 803 vehicle recalls involving 63.9 million vehicles, including high-profile recalls of vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbags.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers announced on Tuesday that it is kicking off a major research effort to improve recall completion rates through a better understanding of the actions of vehicle owners upon receiving a recall notice.
"We want every consumer who gets a recall notice to take his or her vehicle to be repaired," said Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the trade association. "It's important for us to fully understand what the critical first step is to motivate more people to bring in their vehicles for service.
"We know that vehicle age seems to be an important factor, but little research has been conducted on consumer attitudes to recalls. We can only speculate on why consumers who receive multiple notices do not repair their vehicles for free, so learning more about consumer perspectives is imperative to increasing the effectiveness of the program."
Results of the research are expected by this summer.
The automaker said it verified that 92 percent of the addresses were correct, yet, only 75 percent acknowledged receiving the mailing.
Incredibly, 50 percent of affected consumers declined Honda's offer to set up a dealership service appointment to complete the repair.
Honda has asked its dealers to expand service hours to complete recall repairs and to never turn away a customer with an affected vehicle. In February, it initiated a new report that alerts dealers whenever their staff fails to check a vehicle identification number for an open recall.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind will travel to Detroit on Wednesday to continue the safety discussions with auto executives.
Edmunds says: The goal here is to achieve 100 percent recall completion rates. Consumers can help by scheduling service appointments with their dealer as soon as they receive a recall notice.