I liken it to walking through a parking lot and hearing the sound of a car alarm going off. You have become so accustomed to that sound-you don’t even look around to see if the car was actually broken into. Like the horn blowing, Americans have suddenly gotten a ho-hum attitude about vehicle recalls, and recalls in general.
This is not new, but has gotten worse over the past decade. I have a vivid memory of being a Ford dealer ten years ago at the climax of the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire debacle. This was a bad situation with people literally dying almost daily due to tire blowouts and their vehicles rolling over. 340 people died and it captivated your nightly news.
Ultimately, the government ruled it was the tires, but prior to that Ford decided to recall all the Firestone tires themselves to help save lives. Owners of Explorers were notified to take their vehicle to the nearest Ford dealership and receive a free set of 5 brand new tires at no charge, including mounting and balancing. Yes, brand new, name-brand tires for free, and would you believe I had literally hundreds of people who never brought their vehicles in? We called, we wrote, we sent certified letters, we used scare tactics, nothing worked. All those people chose to continue to drive on tires that could kill them. Now almost a decade later, it is even worse.
The first recall of an automobile was in 1966. Since then, over 400 million vehicles have been recalled. In 2010, over 20 million vehicles were recalled, which is roughly 5 million more than were produced, so it is no big surprise that people have begun to ignore recalls. This followed 2009 when over 15 million vehicles were recalled. Other product recalls like strollers, toys, aspirin, and even dog food probably contribute to the apathy.
Recently, Car Fax reported that in 2011, 2.7 million vehicles were offered for sale that had open, or unrepaired recalls. That tells me that even a lot of car dealers are not checking for recalls, and they get paid well to perform the repairs and have the resources at their fingertips to check to see if a car needs recall repairs performed.
If you needed further proof of the American people showing symptoms of this new disease I have dubbed Recall Apathy, consider this: one of the largest recalls ever issued by a car company involved 17.5 million Fords spanning 12 model years. The issue involved a Texas Instruments-produced part that causes a fluid leak in the cruise control system. There have been over 550 reported fires and over 1500 complaints. I have personally talked to many people whose vehicles burned to the ground. The scary part is the vehicles ignite with nobody around, for no apparent reason, without so much as the ignition being on. I have talked to two people whose vehicles caught on fire in their garage, leading to the loss of their homes.
This particular recall has been widely publicized. The dealers have done all they can to get people in to dealership to get the repairs made at no charge. Yet with all that, as of last year, only about 40% of the affected vehicles have been repaired, in spite of the fact that this could be a life and death situation. There are millions of vehicles still out there which could ignite.
If you are not sure whether your car may have an unfixed recall, get your Vehicle ID number and call your closest dealer, they can tell you quickly if there are any open recalls. Most recalls are simple and easy and always done at no charge. Some recalls, left unfixed, can be the difference between life and death and should not be ignored.