Automobile Recalls

I saw two alarming headlines today. The first, reported that “Automakers recalled 53.2 million vehicles in 2016.” The second stated, “Carfax report: One in four vehicles on US roads has unfixed safety recall.” At a time when vehicle recalls are at alarmingly high levels, why is it that so many vehicle owners have not had their recalled vehicles fixed?

According to the Carfax study, there are 34% more unfixed, recalled vehicles on the road in 2017 than in 2016. Carfax, which is a stakeholder in the industry, blames the consumer, pointing to the demands of “family life” as a major contributing factor to the growing number of unfixed recalls. While this may be a factor, the Carmax study ignores the fact that the automobile industry is notoriously terrible at communicating recalls to vehicle owners, particularly to used vehicle owners. Companies like Chrysler have paid massive fines for their recalcitrance in notifying consumers of recalls. Also, the used car industry fought against accepting responsibility to notify used car buyers of recalls affecting the used vehicle. At one point, AutoNation was the only high-volume used car seller that refused to sell recalled vehicles.

In light of the massive Takata airbag recall, I recommend that all vehicle owners take the following simple step to check whether your vehicle is subject to a recall. Go to and search your VIN. There is a yellow box in the upper right corner of the site. Enter your VIN there. Also, click here to sign up for NHTSA safety alerts about your vehicle model.