Automakers want NHTSA to launch recall ad campaign

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Automakers want the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to launch a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to push owners of recalled cars to get them repaired.

In a joint letter, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of Global Automakers asked NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind to launch a “intensive public awareness campaign about the importance of recall participation by consumers.”

The groups, which represent all major automakers, said the campaign should be modeled on the “Click it or Ticket” or “Over the Limit — Under Arrest” campaigns.

NHTSA had an $8 million budget for its two-week May seat belt use advertising campaign on cable, TV, radio and the web.

They urged NHTSA to publicize the site at which owners can enter vehicle identification numbers to see if their vehicles have been recalled. Automakers said they would build on a NHTSA-sponsored public awareness campaign to get the message out.

NHTSA is vowing to take more steps to boost recall completion rates. It held a day-long meeting with automakers in April, and another meeting with others in May to look for ways to get more owners to get into dealerships.

NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said Monday he hadn’t seen the letter and couldn’t immediately comment.

One big issue is that the older cars or trucks are, the less likely owners are to bring them in for recall repairs.

The national average for completing recall repairs is about 75 percent within two years — “where it has been for the last several decades,” the automakers’ letter noted.

But 83 percent of newer vehicles get recall repairs completed. That falls to 44 percent for cars and trucks five to 10 years old. For vehicles 10 years or older, it drops to 15 percent.

One problem is there is no national database of vehicles or vehicle transfers, so automakers sometimes have trouble tracking used cars that have been sold repeatedly.

In March, two senators introduced legislation modeled after laws in Germany that would seek to require vehicle owners to get recalls completed before they could renew their license plates.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced regulations that would require state motor vehicle registration agencies to notify vehicle owners of open safety recalls to help ensure that owners get the safety recalls remedied.

Other bills have previously sought to require used car dealers and rental car firms to complete recalls before selling or renting a vehicle to a customer. It’s the latest in a series of auto safety measures proposed in the last year — but none have yet passed.

Carmakers oppose proposals to require the nation’s 250 million car and truck owners to get recalls repairs completed before they can re-register their vehicles if the parts are not available. But they suggest that state motor vehicle offices could notify owners at the time of re-registering vehicles of the status of open recalls.

Automakers also oppose suggestions raised at the NHTSA event that “salvaged parts” might be a solution for recall part shortages. “

The Alliance Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and others — has launched a research initiative designed to identify issues leading to non-participation, and possible approaches to improve participation.”

The group plans to announce findings and recommendations by this fall.

In 2014, a record 63.95 million vehicles were recalled in the United States — more than twice the previous record set in 2004.