Unrepaired Recalled Cars Infest the Highways

Research shows at least 45 million cars recalled from 2013-2015 haven't been repaired.

Posted in News

— A record number of car recalls. Manufacturers ordering recalls without the necessary parts to fix the cars. Owners who are tired of repeated trips to dealerships. According to research from J.D. Power, all those factors have contributed to tens of millions of unrepaired recalled cars on the roads.

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 45 million vehicles that were recalled between 2013-2015 are still not fixed but continue to travel on the roads and highways.

Consumers can't be blamed for recall fatigue as in 2015 alone, more than 51 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S., part of 437 million vehicles recalled the past 20 years.

According to J.D. Power, the estimated 45 million unrepaired recalled cars is a conservative estimate because tracking older vehicles is not an accurate science. However, data gathered on older vehicles indicates owners of those cars are the least likely to have the vehicles repaired.

Vehicles built between 2003-2007 have a recall repair completion rate of only 44 percent compared to a 73 percent completion rate for 2013-2017 models.

Which vehicles are repaired also comes down to the type of vehicle, what it's used for and which components are involved in the recall. For example, airbags and suspension problems have the lowest recall repair completion rates that hover between 47-48 percent. But problems caused by electrical systems or powertrains have much higher completion rates of 62-71 percent.

Analysis of recall data also shows large work vans have the highest recall completion rate at 86 percent and a step behind are compact premium SUVs with a completion rate of 85 percent. At the lower end of the spectrum are mid-premium sports cars with a recall repair completion rate of 31 percent and large SUVs at 33 percent.

The research also shows completion rates are affected by the size of individual recalls, with a 49 percent completion rate for recalls involving more than 1 million vehicles. But for recalls involving less than 10,000 vehicles, the completion rate jumps to about 67 percent.

One problem is the trouble automakers sometimes struggle with to track down owners of recalled cars, especially if those cars are older. Currently recall notices are mailed to the last known owner of an affected car and those notices must meet federal standards, right down to the minimum size of the mailed notice.

However, automakers are looking into other options of contacting owners, including by using emails, text messages and phone calls.