About 40 percent of all vehicles recalled between 2013 and 2015 still haven’t been fixed, and that’s creating problems for drivers, dealers and automakers.
The defects have not been remedied in more than 45 million vehicles that were the subject of safety recalls during those three years, J.D. Power said Monday. Nearly 109 million cars and trucks were recalled during that time period, the global marketing information services firm said.
“The steady surge in recalls, combined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s stated goal of 100 percent recall completion rates, have made the number of unremedied recalls still on the road a critical statistic for automakers and dealers,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power.
Stricter regulations, standardization of parts and new technologies have led automakers to four consecutive years of increased recalls in the United States, including records in 2014 and 2015.
Consumer complaints, according to Stephens, are “rising as fast as the recall” rate itself. Those complaints can help automakers and regulators identify concerns more quickly.
“We’ve been looking at safety more closely really because it’s become an industry issue with not only the number of recalls but the number of complaints,” she said.
By analyzing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and proprietary J.D. Power benchmarking data, the firm identified that primary factors affecting completion rates are vehicle age and type, number of cars involved in a recall and type of recall.
■Age: Consumers are less likely to take in older cars and trucks for recall fixes.
“On vehicles that are newer, they had a higher competition rate … those consumers are maybe more connected to the dealer a lot faster than consumers that have an older model-year vehicles,” Stephens said.
The completion rate for vehicles with model years between 2013 and 2017 is 73 percent, compared to 44 percent for vehicles manufactured between 2003 and 2007.
Stephens added that many times it’s hard for automakers to contact second- or third-generations of owners — a problem General Motors Co. ran into with its ignition switch recall involving 1.93 million vehicles in the United States.
■Vehicle type: Among vehicle segments, big vans have the highest overall recall completion rate at 86 percent, followed closely by compact premium SUVs at 85 percent. Those compare with the mid-premium sports car segment, which has a completion rate of just 31 percent, and with large SUV’s which have a completion rate of 33 percent.
■Larger recalls, bigger problems: The completion rate for individual recalls affecting more than 1 million vehicles is 49 percent. This compares with a 67 percent completion rate for individual recalls affecting less than 10,000.
Some of the problem, Stephens said, may involve parts shortages or dealers not receiving the parts in a timely fashion. “Making sure that the parts are available, that their at the dealer when the consumer goes, is very important,” she said. Several automakers recently ran into problems with parts shortages involving defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp. in more than 12 million vehicles.
NHTSA previously criticized Fiat Chrysler for parts availability and the slow pace of fixes on millions of Jeeps recalled for possible gas tank fires; the company didn’t start fixing them until August 2014, more than a year after agreeing to the callback.
■Type of recall: The highest recall completion rates for components are for powertrains (71 percent), electrical (62 percent) and brakes (66 percent). Air bags and suspension issues have the lowest completion rates at 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
Automakers, pushed by NHTSA, have launched new initiatives to get vehicle owners to get vehicles repaired. GM, Volkswagen AG and Fiat Chrysler offered gift cards or prepaid debit cards in some recent recalls.
Stephens argues if an automaker and dealer handle recalls well, they can turn a negative into a positive — whether it be reconnecting with a former customer or showing them new products they have to offer.
“It can be a very positive experience if it’s done correctly,” she said.