What Used Vehicle Owners Need to Know About the Dangers of Uncompleted Recall Repairs
In 2009, GM issued a recall for their fire-prone vehicles. Since that recall was issued, the rate of engine fires has dropped. However, they do still occur. Some people may have purchased vehicles that were under the recall but were never fixed. When engine fires start, they can damage surrounding cars, garages or homes.
This recall incident revealed a big problem, which is the lack of a system to track down the sales of problematic vehicles. The lack of such a system means that there are many automobiles on the pre-owned car market that may be potential death traps. In theory, it should seem that it is the original owner's responsibility to disclose any recall repairs that have not been completed. However, if the owner does not know there are existing recall repairs that need to be completed, he or she has no way of relaying that information to the next buyer. The current system for recall notifications is not as consumer friendly as it could be.
Auto manufacturers send a series of letters to people who purchase vehicles from them if there is a recall. However, some owners may not even open the letters. Others may open them and not think to contact a buyer if the vehicle was sold. If the original owner does attempt to contact the second owner about a recall, he or she may not be successful. The buyer may have moved or changed phone numbers.
At the end of 2011, the number of completed recalls for the recalled fire-prone GM vehicles was barely more than 50 percent. With most recall completion rates hovering around 70 percent, that number is not satisfactory to GM. The company has still worked hard to track down all of the owners of the affected vehicles. Owner records are obtained from registration files, and more than 12 letters have been sent to each owner since 2009. Ford had a similar recall issue that was resulting in fires in several vehicles. However, only about 50 percent of owners responded to the recall notices they received.
Auto manufacturers and regulators are worried that vehicles needing repairs will not receive them. Many consumers underestimate the severity of these issues do not understand that a safety risk must exist in order for a recall to be issued. When they ignore these letters, they are putting themselves or the people they have sold their vehicles to at risk. While vehicle owners are not required by law to have recall repairs completed or disclose them to potential buyers, the NHTSA is working to change that. This organization agrees that consumers should know the status of any used vehicle they buy from a dealer or individual. One suggestion they proposed would be a new state-based system that connects recall information to vehicle identification numbers. Vehicle owners would learn about recalls when they register their vehicles every year. In summary, the plan would bring information to consumers more conveniently rather than leaving it up to them to find it or take the next steps.
Checking For Recalls
Unless such a system is created in the future, it is up to vehicle owners to be vigilant about recalls. When a letter from the manufacturer arrives in the mail, open it. If a recall is issued, have the repair completed immediately. Keep in mind that recall repairs are free. New and used vehicle owners should make sure their cars are registered with the proper manufacturers. This will ensure a vehicle is placed on the recall notice list. In the future, the NHTSA plans to implement a recall database, which would be searchable by vehicle identification numbers.
-Lucas R. Zeiler