Carmakers studying why drivers ignore recalls

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A top lobby group for automakers will poll drivers to learn why many vehicle owners ignore auto recall notices, alerting them to safety issues.

The Washington, D.C.-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said Monday it is contracting with Republican pollster Bill McInturff to research the factors that motivate drivers to take their cars in for repairs after recalls. The average completion rate of recalls is currently 75 percent.

The survey comes as the industry faces a probe by federal regulators on their efforts. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) is preparing to host a forum on boosting the completion rate of repairs for faulty car parts after a series of widespread recalls roiled the U.S. auto industry last year. 

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The auto manufacturing group’s president, Mitch Bainwol, said Monday that figuring out how to boost the response rate of drivers is the key to increasing the number of completed auto repairs.  

“We want every consumer who gets a recall notice to take his or her vehicle to be repaired,” Auto Alliance Mitch Bainwol said in a statement.  “It’s important for us to fully understand what the critical first step is to motivate more people to bring in their vehicles for service.  

"We know that vehicle age seems to be an important factor, but little research has been conducted on consumer attitudes to recalls," he added. "We can only speculate on why consumers who receive multiple notices do not repair their vehicles for free, so learning more about consumer perspectives is imperative to increasing the effectiveness of the program.”   

Lawmakers have raised questions about the auto industry’s handling of recalls after a series of issues involving cars that were made by General Motors and airbag manufacturer Takata made waves in 2014. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is hosting a workshop in Washington on Tuesday to boost auto recall completion rates. The agency said the summit would “provide a neutral and independent forum for participants to come together to develop solutions to improve recall completion rates.”  

The Auto Alliance said Monday that the response rate for recall notices falls from 75 percent to 15 percent when the repairs involves cars that are older than 10 years old.

The group said the participation rate is troubling because the average age of cars on U.S. roads is 11.4 years. 

McInturff, who is co-founder of Alexandria, Va.-based Public Opinion Strategies, said the survey of driver behavior will help the auto industry figure out how to boost the response rate. 

“This study will be designed to drill down on consumer motivations,” McInturff said. “We will be talking to consumers who have repaired their recalled vehicles as well as seeking out consumers who own vehicles still under recall and trying to learn more about consumers’ attitudes to recall notices.”

The auto companies that are represented by Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers include BMW Group, FCA US — formerly known as the Chrysler Group — Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.