Despite Efforts, Nearly One In Three Vehicles Never Repaired
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Only 72 percent of recalled vehicles are repaired each year, according to Kathy DeMeter, director of defect investigations for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as reported in an Associated Press article. That means that in 2003, when 19.1 million vehicles were recalled, about 5.3 million vehicles weren´t repaired.
While the repair rate is lower than the NHTSA would like, DeMeter said it´s up from a decade ago, when the average was 65 percent. She also said it´s higher than other auto-related products. Only 35 percent of recalled tires and 45 percent of recalled child seats are repaired because it´s harder to track the owners. "People are becoming more aware of safety, and manufacturers are doing a better job of notifying them," DeMeter said.
Automakers are required to give the NHTSA repair data for six quarters after they send a notification letter to owners. If repair rates are exceptionally low, DeMeter said, the NHTSA will occasionally require an automaker to send a second notice.
Ford Motor Co. has one of the highest repair rates — around 80 percent — because it sends multiple letters to owners instead of the one letter the NHTSA requires, DeMeter said. Charlie Kopeika, Ford´s manager of recalls, said the company will send up to five letters and postcards over two years.
Ford buys registration data from states to track down vehicles even after they´ve changed owners. Despite those efforts, a certain percentage of owners are never found, Kopeika said. The oldest Ford recall that the NHTSA is still tracking, a 1999 recall of Windstar minivans with a fuel tank problem, shows 3,253 of the 83,052 owners were never reached. Automakers don´t have to contact owners if the vehicles have been moved abroad.
Repair rates for newer vehicles are generally higher. As of Sept. 30, one year after they were recalled because of a fuel tank defect, 90.6 percent of 2004 Toyota Sienna minivans had been repaired. By comparison, the repair rate for older models of the Volkswagen New Beetle was 56.7 percent on Sept. 30, a year after they were recalled because of faulty brake lights.