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Survey: Most Car Owners Claim They Act on Recall Notices, Compliance Data Suggests Far Fewer Do

A recent consumer survey from Stericycle Expert Solutions found that a majority of Americans claim to take action when they receive automotive recall notices. But data from other industry sources suggests those consumers may believe they are more compliant than they actually are.

The survey1 of more than 1,100 Americans revealed that an astounding 87 percent of respondents say they act on automotive recall notices most or all of the time. Yet NHTSA, which tracks automotive recalls more precisely based on actual automobile Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), found that only 61.7 percent of recalled cars get repaired2, even after sending car owners multiple recall notices over 18 months.

The results suggest a discrepancy between the good intentions of automobile owners and what they actually do when they receive a recall notice. The lesson for automobile manufacturers is to explore new communication channels for reaching consumers and to provide more convenient options for them to respond.

The survey found automotive recalls rank low compared to other product segments like food and drugs, which respondents said are their most important recall concerns. By comparison, just 21 percent of respondents ranked automotive recalls as their first or second top concern.

The survey also revealed that standard recall outreach efforts may be falling flat. Just 46 percent of respondents said they had received one to four automotive recalls, while 37 percent claim they have never received a single recall notice.

According to the survey findings, recall compliance rates vary by generations. Baby boomers (ages 55+) are most likely to say they respond to all or most auto recalls, with 91 percent claiming compliance, compared to just 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-34).

A multichannel approach – including emails, text messages, and outbound calls – has been proven to raise repair rates, and it may be even more beneficial among millennials. They are accustomed to communicating on their terms, which usually means through mobile and online digital channels. Routine recall mailers may simply end up in their junk mail pile.

1The U.S. consumer survey was conducted by Stericycle Expert Solutions, August 23-25, 2017, using the national Toluna QuickSurvey panel, n=1,104 (results weighted to match U.S. Census data).

2Excluding VINs no longer in service.


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