NHTSA Administrator David Strickland speaks about new rule

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland addresses the Washington Automotive Press Association on new VIN rule.

Starting on August 14 of next year, consumers will be able to easily check an online database to find out if cars and motorcycles have been recalled, thanks to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule released on Wednesday, news reports say. The NHTSA is requiring all car and motorcycle companies to provide the online research tool by that date, writes Gabe Nelson for Automotive News.

The information will be searchable for free by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), NHTSA Administrator David Strickland writes on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s blog Fast Lane. There are several automakers who already offer this on their websites, including Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen, Nelson writes.

Auto and motorcycle manufacturers will be required to keep the data updated at least once a week, he writes. And consumers will also be able to search industry recall data on NHTSA’s SaferCar.com website.

The rule, as Nelson reports, also requires carmakers and motorcycle makers to make recall notices more detailed, specifically by including the word “Urgent Safety Recall” in capital letters and a larger font at the top of the notice. Regulators made these changes because they say it is still too difficult for consumers to figure out if their cars (or ones they plan to buy) have been recalled.

“They say the steps will give customers peace of mind about their vehicles and increase the number of recalled vehicles that are fixed,” Nelson writes, adding that the current number of recalled vehicles in the U.S. that have had their recall defects repaired stays at around 70%, NHTSA said, although it varies by what type of defect a vehicle has.

Nelson notes:

NHTSA already allows car owners to enter their car’s make, nameplate and model year to see whether that model has been recalled. But in many cases, only a small portion of cars from a given model year are defective, making it harder for customers to figure out whether their cars are affected.

Ford Motor Co. is one carmaker questioning the new rule, saying the agency could simply post links on individual car and motorcycle sites, rather than requiring the makers to send data to regulators, Nelson writes. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — a trade group whose members include Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and Toyota — concurs, Nelson writes, saying it makes sense to provide recall information on individual car sites, where consumers go when looking to buy cars.

Originally the NHTSA wanted automakers to submit updated VIN data to the agency daily, but that was changed to weekly after complaints from automakers about the high costs of doing so. Honda claimed it would cost them $15 million a year to make daily updates, Nelson writes.

Strickland says:

In making individual Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) searches readily available, we’re providing another service to car, light truck and motorcycle owners and potential owners — the peace of mind of knowing that the used or older model vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying, is safe.

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