How to Respond Quickly to Motor Vehicle Recalls

In the wake of 13 deaths connected to crashes caused by a faulty ignition switch, General Motors is under federal scrutiny for its manufacturing practices, forcing the company to make major changes to its approach to safety and to begin recalling vehicles at the first sign that they may contain a defective part.

The result has been recalls of nearly 26 million vehicles in America and a total of 29 million around the world, setting a recall record. In fact, records show that only three key GM models haven’t been recalled this year – the Chevrolet Equinox crossover, GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, according to an NBC News article.

GM has created a fund for problems linked to defective ignition switches so it can provide compensation to crash victims’ families. The company estimates that recalls will cost it $2.5 billion in 2014.

Recalls Not Limited to GM Vehicles

However, General Motors is not the only company calling back vehicles for repairs. A total of 31.4 million vehicles have been recalled this year in the U.S., breaking the mark of 30.8 million called back for the entire year of 2004.

A faulty airbag inflator manufactured by Takata Corp. is touching numerous automakers. The inflators, which can explode and spray metal shards around the cabin, are installed in millions of Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, Fords, Chryslers, Mazdas and BMWs, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

Yet, despite the problematic year, experts say vehicles are still safer than they were just 10 or 15 years ago. They point to examples of enhanced safety technology that has led to advances such as better handling and stability.

This may provide little comfort, however, for Richmond-area motorists who, if they aren’t driving a car that has been recalled, will likely be traveling beside one that should be taken in for repairs. This is because only 70 percent of vehicle owners whose cars are recalled take them in for the required repairs, according to the NBC News article.

How Do Recalls Work?

Recalls can be made by the manufacturer or required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A public report must be filed detailing the problems and how it is be fixed, according to the NHTSA website,

When a recall is issued, automakers are required to send letters to vehicle owners with information that includes:

  • A description of the defect or failure to comply with federal standards.
  • An explanation of the risk involved with the problem.
  • A description of how to obtain a free repair of the defect, along with a work schedule and how long it will take.
  • Alternatives for having the problem fixed if the owner cannot do it in a reasonable time frame or without cost.

If you receive a recall letter, follow these steps:

  • Notify your local dealer’s service manager about the recall, describe the work needed and set up a time for the job to be done. Keep the manufacturer’s notification letter and provide any pertinent information to the dealer.
  • If you feel your concerns are not being dealt with properly, contact the manufacturer by a toll-free number that is usually on the notification letter. Provide the make, model, model year and vehicle identification number (VIN). Describe the problem and identify the dealer and steps you took to resolve the situation.
  • If you run into further trouble getting the repair done without being charged, or if you have concerns about the work, contact the NHTSA at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, West Building, Washington, D.C 20590 or call (888) 327-4236. You can also fill out an online form that can be found at the NHTSA website.

Please do not put that recall notification letter under a stack of papers and fall victim to a car crash related to negligent manufacturing. Take action immediately to ensure your vehicle meets safety standards.