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NHTSA Meets with Federal and Industry Leaders to Discuss Boosting Recall Repair Rates

| Washington, DC

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration met with federal and industry leaders today to discuss boosting recall repair rates for vehicles and safety equipment. Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King encouraged attendees to work together, and underscored concern about lower completion rates for older vehicles.

Vehicles that are 6 to 10 years old at the time of the recall average a 56% completion rate, compared to 76% for vehicles that are 1 to 5 years old, and 80% for vehicles under 3 years old, according to NHTSA.

Heidi R. King Urges Drivers to Check Older Vehicles for Recalls 11.8.18
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“The automotive industry was built on innovation, and many in the industry have recently made strides to bring that innovation to recalls,” said Deputy Administrator King. “Exploring new ways to reach vehicle owners and communicate urgency for recall repairs, especially for older vehicles, is essential to protecting lives on our nation’s roadways.”

NHTSA identified four areas for discussion and collaboration.

1. Data and Dealers: Driving Results

A takeaway from the first roundtable is making sure manufacturers and dealers obtain the most reliable owner information, especially for older vehicles that may have been resold, which have the lowest recall completion rates. Representatives from the National Automobile Dealers Association, National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, U.S. Department of Justice, and Ford Motor Company participated in the discussion. Stout Risius Ross acknowledged the need to improve dealer engagement through more detailed data analysis. Dealers, states and others are also being encouraged to use new tools like bulk VIN lookup to check for open recalls. 

2. Communicating and Connecting with Consumers

The second panel brought together representatives from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, Graco, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Toyota, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and Glover Park Group. The panel talked about ways to improve consumer awareness and recall completion rates using traditional and innovative communication methods to reach consumers. The biggest takeaway was to explore how the new ways to make and maintain contact with consumers will improve completion rates.

3. Recall Outreach: Innovation and Opportunities 

The third group included representatives from Ford Motor Company, Maryland Department of Transportation, BMW, Mazda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and the National Safety Council, which shared lessons learned and new communication methods to reach consumers, including incentives. The group also discussed the 2-year pilot program that is underway in Maryland. NHTSA awarded a first-of-its-kind grant to the state to evaluate the effects of providing open recall information to consumers at the time of vehicle registration. The initial information from this pilot project has already shown positive results.

4. Unique Recalls: What Can We Learn?

Representatives from the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, Volvo Group North America, Thor Industries, General Motors, and Honda gathered on the last panel to discuss recalls of large trucks and RVs. Methods such as engaging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s truck inspection program were discussed, among others. In addition, the panel explored supplier engagement, versus just the vehicle manufacturers, in auto recalls, and strategies for completion using internal and external stakeholders. 

NHTSA also discussed next steps. 

The agency will continue to work with the auto industry to improve consumer awareness and recall completion rates using traditional and innovative communication methods to reach consumers, including using other data sources to make sure manufacturers obtain the most reliable owner information. 

The agency will take the lessons learned from the 2-year pilot program in Maryland and encourage other states to adopt similar best practices. When the grant was awarded, Maryland was the only state to apply. However, since then, several other states have expressed interest in helping with recalls. 

NHTSA is constantly communicating with the public about recalls – whether through social media, electronic outreach through text and email, radio interview segments, or other media.   

Consumers nationwide are urged to check every November when setting clocks back and every March when setting clocks forward as part of NHTSA’s Safe Cars Save Lives campaign. NHTSA will continue these efforts and looks to the media and public for support in spreading the word.

Screenshot of a Twitter post from the conference

Important recall reminders for vehicle owners

In 2018 there have been 722 recalls affecting over 29 million vehicles in the United States. Last year, there were 900 recalls affecting over 42 million vehicles. Manufacturers currently use state vehicle registration information to contact most owners, so make sure your vehicle registration information is up-to-date.

Recall repairs are always free at dealers, and a free Recall Look-up Tool is available on If you get a recall notice in the mail, read it carefully. It will tell you just about everything you need to know, including:

  • A description of what’s wrong with the vehicle;
  • Any risks or hazards, including potential injury, posed by the problem;
  • Possible warning signs;
  • How the manufacturer plans to fix the problem;
  • When the repair will be available and how long it’ll take; and
  •  Instructions on what to do next.

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