Recall repair delays leave drivers waiting


In the past two years, auto recalls have been in the news like never before, from the General Motors ignition recall to the Takata air bag action.

The attention has put a spotlight on an important problem facing drivers and the auto industry: recalled cars that are not repaired. By some estimates, 25 percent of the vehicles recalled are not fixed.

Cindy Olsen of Utica owns a 2013 Ford Fusion.

"I love my Ford Fusion," she told Ruth to the Rescue.

She knows her car is under three open recalls. Olsen received the latest notice in June, but one recall dates back to November of 2014. That recall focuses on a restraint control module that could short circuit. If that occurs, the air bag warning indicator lamp will illuminate. In some cases, the air bags may function as intended during a crash.

Olsen is concerned that issue hasn't been repaired and she says the folks at her Ford dealership share her concerns. "He said we just don't have the parts and he said it's very frustrating on our part. He said we've been waiting maybe 6 months."

Knowing About Recalls is Important, but ...

Olsen saw the recent Ruth to the Rescue story about the MyCarfax app which helps alert drivers about open recalls on their cars. Vehicles that have not been repaired are a big issue.

"Carfax data suggests there are over 1.5 million cars with unfixed recalls right here in Michigan alone," said Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax.

Local 4's Ruth Spencer took Basso to a garage in Royal Oak to see how the app works. One one floor in that garage, they counted 30 cars and 10 had open safety recalls. The MyCarfax app will help you find out if you've missed a safety recall.

"It's free. All you need to do is plug in your license plate once and then Carfax is going to monitor your car, and tell you about any recalls on it now and in the future," explained Basso.

Olsen says she enjoyed the story and hopes it alerts more drivers about open recalls. However, she worries the lack of parts is another reason cars aren't getting repaired. "I think it's important to know that most of us are concerned, and we are trying to do what we're supposed to do," she said.

Auto Dealers Frustrated, Too

We checked with Olsen's auto dealer, Romeo Ford. The service manager Barb Mosher says they receive parts for most recalls within a month, and any delays are frustrating for them as well. When there are unusual delays, she refers customers to the Ford corporate number (800-392-3673), hoping the issue can be escalated.

Part of the challenge, according to the Auto Alliance, an industry trade group, is sometimes auto companies must send notices to drivers before the parts are ready. Then, they have to send a second notice when the parts are actually ready.

Ford is certainly not alone when it comes to facing parts delays. The massive Takata air bag recalls involves 34 million vehicles. Due to the sheer number, experts say it could take a long time to get each and every vehicle repaired. Getting safety issues corrected as quickly as possible is a challenge facing the whole industry.

Olsen hopes the whole system can be repaired. "I'm not sure if there's an answer or not, but it's a problem," she told Ruth to the Rescue. She says she realize any solution would involve everyone in the supply chain: suppliers, manufacturers, dealers, and consumers.

Luckily for her, her air bag issue seems to be one that can be monitored. Ford says the warning indicator will illuminate if there's a problem with the control module. If that happens, drivers should contact their local dealership immediately. Romeo Ford Service Manager Barb Mosher says under those circumstances, there can be an emergency request to get the parts, and in some cases, a loaner might be provided.

While some drivers might be more frustrated and impatient, Olsen says she's monitoring her car and staying in touch with her dealer so she knows when the parts arrive.

"I feel safe in my car. Maybe that's naive, but I do feel safe in it until something indicates otherwise," Olsen told Ruth to the Rescue.

What Can You Do?

Here are some pointers from Ruth to the Rescue about this whole recall repair issue.

1) If you want to check your car for open recalls, you can use the MyCarFax app
2) Or you can also check the government website
3) If you know your vehicle is under and open recall and you are having a problem with parts, you should keep calling the dealer, the manufacturer, and you can log complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
4) Ford says it's customers can go to www.ford.com and click on Safety Recalls near the bottom of the page. They can enter their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see open safety, compliance or emissions recalls, as well as customer satisfaction programs.

No matter what type of vehicle you have, educate yourself on any open recalls. Then, follow through with the repairs. If you run into delays, stay in contact with the dealer and/or the manufacturer.

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