WASHINGTON — Automakers recalled a record number of vehicles in 2015, prompting federal safety regulators to launch a new public awareness campaign that urges consumers to check for open recalls and to get to the dealership for repairs.
More than 51 million vehicles were recalled in 2015 in nearly 900 campaigns, including the massive recall for defective Takata airbags. That is slightly above 2014's record, which after a downward adjustment stands at just below 51 million.
To call attention to the record-setting pace of recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching a new advertising campaign dubbed "Safe Cars Save Lives."
It is also calling on dealers to improve outreach to customers with recalled vehicles.
"Dealers play a central role in the recall completion effort," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a speech at the 2016 Washington Auto Show on Thursday.
He urged dealers nationwide to "ensure that you make recall service visits a high priority."
"Communicate clearly to consumers that recalls represent a risk they should address and find ways to make it as easy as possible for consumers to have their vehicle remedied," Rosekind said. "You are at the front lines in our battle to address these defects and we need you in the fight."
Consumers are urged to check for open recalls at least twice a year and to get their vehicles fixed as soon as parts are available.
Every year, on average, 25 percent of recalled vehicles are left unrepaired, NHTSA said.
The new advertising campaign says that checking for a recall could help save a life.
Consumers are urged to use NHTSA's free VIN lookup tool, timing the action with daylight savings — every November when setting clocks back and every March when setting clocks forward.
If there is an open recall, NHTSA advises owners to contact their local dealer to schedule an appointment and bring their vehicle in for repair as soon as possible.
The agency is also considering changing the way consumers are notified of recalls. One change may be e-mailed recall notices, in addition to the ones sent to owners through postal mail.
Edmunds says: This is a call to action for all car owners. Informed consumers can help to put the brakes on record recalls.