WASHINGTON — The new Recalls Spotlight feature on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web site is designed to help consumers easily get information about "trending" recalls, including the massive recall of defective Takata airbags.
The microsite went live this week.
"The new feature will focus on presenting the latest information regarding the recalls you're hearing about right now," NHTSA said in a statement.
Consumers can sign up for recall alerts, file a complaint about a vehicle and check to see if their vehicle is under recall using the vehicle identification number or VIN Lookup tool.
As of Friday morning, the new feature highlighted the Takata airbag recall campaign and provided information about the Fiat-Chrysler public hearing scheduled for July 2 about whether the automaker has failed to remedy safety defects in 20 recalls.
"We feel communicating with the public is an essential part of the safety mission. These are such high-interest issues that we thought the best way to keep people informed was to establish a microsite within Safercar.gov that will allow us to update information and get it to consumers quickly," wrote NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge in response to a query from Edmunds on Friday.
He added: "The circumstances of the Takata and Fiat Chrysler announcements this week made that especially important. With Takata, because we needed defect filings from Takata before we could get detailed make, model and VIN information from the automakers, and we knew that would inevitably cause some concern among consumers, so we wanted to give folks a spot to watch for new information as it became available. With FCA, scheduling a hearing in which public input is an essential element seemed to call for an easy-to-access portal for information."
Trowbridge said on Wednesday, the day after the Takata announcement, NHTSA processed 987,000 VIN lookup requests. That was after 571,000 on Tuesday — most of them after the 2 p.m. Takata announcement.
"Our daily average for the previous week was 9,662, and our all-time record had been about 100,000," he noted. "So, obviously, major public interest."
The new feature also gives consumers step-by-step directions on what to do if their vehicle is recalled.
"When you receive a notification, follow any interim safety guidance provided by the manufacturer and contact your local dealership," it said. "They will fix the recalled part or portion of your car for free."
NHTSA said the Takata airbag recall is the largest in U.S. history.
Edmunds says: The NHTSA Web site becomes more consumer friendly, a must in this era of historic recalls.