Washington D.C. Sept. 18, 2018 – 70 million vehicles on the road with open recalls poses a significant highway safety danger.  “While these open recalls present a clear hazard to the occupants of these vehicles, they are also a hazard to the rest of the driving public,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director and author of The Car Book.  The high number of open recalls means that a significant number of owners are “turning-in” used cars with an open recall or those vehicles may be recalled by the manufacturer while waiting to be resold.  Some car dealerships are violating state laws that prohibit them from selling unsafe vehicles, particularly when they are subject to a safety recall. The result: a significant number of used vehicles are likely to be sold with open recalls.  While the subsequent owner can have any recall addressed at no charge for 15 years from when the recall was issued, they may not know about the recalls or fail to check their particular vehicle.  They may also experience lengthy delays in being able to obtain repairs, due to severe shortages of repair parts, or the manufacturer’s failure to provide a remedy.

The automobile recall program is one of the government’s most important auto safety functions, but to be truly effective, recall completion rates must be dramatically increased.  “It’s simply not enough to announce a recall, the car companies, car dealers, and government must do everything possible to remedy those recalls,” said Gillis.  “Under federal law, car dealers can’t sell new cars with open recalls, and under state laws, car dealers are not allowed to sell recalled used cars either. But those laws are not being adequately enforced. With today’s communication technology, social media, and information databases, there is no excuse not to significantly increase compliance with safety recalls,” added Gillis.  The entire auto industry, all levels of government, and individual consumers each have an important role to play in ensuring that safety recalls are performed. The huge rental car industry must acknowledge and respect the importance of recalls, so too should the rest of the automotive use and retail industry.

Needed Actions to Protect the American Public from Recalled Vehicles:

  1. State attorneys general should enforce existing state laws that prohibit car dealers from knowingly, negligently, or deceptively selling unrepaired recalled used cars.
  2. In addition, Congress and the President should enact federal legislation, enforceable by NHTSA, to prohibit car dealers from selling recalled used cars.
  3. Require fleet operators to remedy open recalls upon notice and prior to returning vehicles to service.
  4. Recalled taxis and ride service vehicles must be remedied upon notice and prior to returning vehicles to service.
  5. Auto auction companies must remedy recalls during their refurbishing process and prior to the transfer of the vehicle.
  6. Require car companies to send out notices (by e- and postal mail) every two months until the recall is resolved or vehicle has been removed from service.
  7. Require DMVs and state inspection programs to include VIN-specific recall notices on registration renewals and inspections to alert the owners that their vehicles have unrepaired recalls.
  8. The government (NHTSA) must initiate an effective public education campaign to get vehicle owners to sign up for recall notifications.
  9. New and used car dealers must register owners for recall notices on safercar.gov as part of the selling paperwork. Insurance companies should provide a recall report before providing insurance.
  10. Manufacturers must provide loaner cars for owners of recalled vehicles when there are significant delays in obtaining recall repair parts.

“Corporate America and the government have developed massive database and information systems for advertising, marketing and tracking purposes, it’s time to put those same systems in place for remedying recalls,” concluded Gillis.

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer and cooperative groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. www.consumerfed.org