Washington, DC — The Auto Alliance and Global Automakers today released the initial results of research designed to understand why roughly 25 percent of the owners of recalled vehicles never complete the free repair.  An extensive survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies illuminates a variety of factors that play into how consumers respond to recall notices and suggests potential opportunities for increasing consumer participation.

“Nationwide, 93 percent of those who had heard about a safety recall on their vehicle learned about it from the automaker and new vehicle dealer communications,” said Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the Auto Alliance. “Many consumers said they responded to the recall notice because they would rather be ‘safe than sorry.’”

“We want everyone who gets a recall notice to take their vehicle to be repaired,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO, Global Automakers. “Since little public opinion research has been done in this area, for the first time we are learning about what motivates people to respond to safety recalls.”

Several challenges to getting consumers to repair their recalled vehicles were identified.  The research indicates that many consumers are doing their own risk assessments when they receive a notice and deciding if the recall seems important enough for a response.  Many survey respondents showed a reduced likelihood to repair a recalled vehicle if they perceived the recall to be “low” or “moderate” risk, saying it seemed to be “no big deal.”  Used vehicle owners are less likely to be motivated to respond to recall communications, even when they are aware of a recall on their vehicle.

The survey also indicated that many consumers may support state laws that only allow a vehicle’s registration to be renewed if all safety recalls have been completed.  Survey respondents supported several ways to help convince people to bring their vehicle into a dealership for the free recall repair, including ranking the severity of the recall as high, making the recall notice stand out while also denoting the repair is free, and providing a reminder of an “open” safety recall in their insurance renewal notices.

Public Opinion Strategies, one of the nation’s leading public opinion research firms, conducted a national online survey of 1,500 motor vehicle owners, including those who reported receiving recall notices within the last two years, to explore reasons for consumer behavior related to the recalls (both responders and non-responders) through a series of closed and open-ended questions.  The firm tested three different types of vehicle recalls, ranging from minor to moderate to more serious recalls, and examined how consumers said they would respond to recalls at each level and how the recall impacts their perceptions about the safety of their vehicles.  Survey results provided descriptions of consumer sub-groups who respond and don’t respond, and began identifying potentially effective ways to increase the participation rate of recalls. The survey results have been shared with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The national survey represents the first phase of research, and it is being followed by focus groups to learn more about non-responders and their views, as well as the experiences of new vehicle dealership employees who frequently interact with customers about recalls.