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Accelerating Repair Rates After NHTSA’s Latest Consent Order

Perhaps the auto industry’s biggest challenge took on new urgency in mid-December when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued an amended consent order aimed at raising airbag-related recall repair rates. The changes provide a boost to this effort by defining, for the first time, what constitutes a VIN that is no longer in service and, therefore, no longer in need of repair.

Vehicles may now be classified in the “other reasons” category of unreachable owners if all the following conditions are met:

  • The vehicle is at least five years old
  • The vehicle has not been registered with any state or territory for at least three continuous years (or registration expired at least three years prior)
  • At least one independent “nationally recognized” source confirms the vehicle is no longer in service. These may include:
    • National Motor Vehicle Title Information Service (NMVTIS) records
    • A license plate recognition data source
    • A vehicle history report reflecting a lack of activity, such as repairs, maintenance, or title transfers, for at least three years

If automakers use this opportunity to enhance their data on scrapped vehicles, repair rates can be immediately improved – by an average of 20 percent. However, the consent order specifies that any savings resulting from that change must be put back into repairing vehicles that are still in use. It also states that moving VINs to the “other” category must be done with the full knowledge of NHTSA. Vehicles that were stolen or exported will be monitored and removed from this list if they reappear in circulation.

Along with this new guidance, the consent order outlines its findings on several ongoing challenges preventing manufacturers from reaching higher repair rates, including:

  • Providing clear, accurate, and consistent information to the public
  • Lack of replacement parts, or confusion regarding what constitutes “sufficient supply” to launch a campaign
  • Inadequate vehicle owner outreach efforts

NHTSA requests that automakers put together a detailed plan for how to address each of these issues. In light of these amendments, it is more important than ever for automakers to identify new parts suppliers to meet the demand, update vehicle owner data, expand their outreach to multichannel notifications, ensure messaging is consistent across all forms of communication, and utilize an airbag retrieval service if necessary.

By taking proactive steps, automakers can move toward achieving NHTSA’s aspirational goal of achieving 100 percent repair rates.

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