The last time anyone counted, back in October of last year, nearly 260 million vehicles were operating on America’s roads. Ever wonder what kind of shape are they in? According to a recent release by IHS, Inc., the corporate parent for used-vehicle history providing website Carfax, over 47 million — almost 25% of vehicles on the road — still need a repair covered by a recall ordered or approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The past year saw a record number of safety-related automotive recalls: nearly 900 of them, in fact, that covered about 51 million vehicles. You may remember the huge recall of General Motors’ faulty ignition switches in several million of its smaller models (responsible for at least 13 deaths, according to NHTSA, which fined the company $900 million and put it under a federal monitor, for filing to make timely reports of the safety problem).
Or the huge recall of potentially explosive Takata airbags, thought to be linked in over 100 deaths; it was the largest-ever automotive recall when it was first announced last May, with 12 automakers and 19 million vehicles covered – and it has since been expanded to cover 14 automakers and over 29 million vehicles, as reports speculate that number may rise to 70 million or 90 million).
Even more troubling than the number and size of the recalls is their spotty effectiveness. Although recall repairs can be made at U.S. dealers at no cost to the vehicle owner, NHTSA says approximately a quarter of recalled vehicles do not get repaired within 18 months of a recall launch. The number of uncompleted safety recalls in 2015 climbed by 27% over the almost 64 million vehicles covered in about 800 recalls the previous year.
Federal law forbids car dealers selling new vehicles in which repairs have not been made to defects covered by an official recall. But the same prohibition does not apply to the sale of used vehicles with uncorrected recall defects, or require disclosure of unfixed defects under recall – even though it is relatively simple to determine whether a car or light truck in fact is covered by a recall notice (the NHTSA website, at Safercar.gov, allows a vehicle owner to enter its Vehicle Identification Number to discover relevant recalls over the past 15 years).
Congress has considered, but not enacted, bills to extend to used vehicles the prohibition against dealers selling vehicles with unrepaired defects covered by a recall, unless disclosing that to the buyer. NHTSA is also trying to expand public awareness of recalls and considering new rules that would expand recall notice methods.
If you believe that someone close to you has had an accident, been seriously injured or killed as the result of an undisclosed vehicle defect in a car or truck, you should get the advice of our experienced automotive product liability attorney. Contact us without delay, to get an attorney’s advice on your rights and options.