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Vehicles can easily change hands multiple times over their lifetime. When a recall occurs, it then becomes increasingly difficult for manufacturers and dealerships to notify the current owners, which compounds the problem of low recall compliance. For many vehicle owners, it’s not that they don’t want the recall fixed, it’s simply that they don’t even know about the recall in the first place!
Sure, there are OEM campaigns sent out via mail. However, sadly direct mail pieces are quite often trashed because the person who receives the recall notice no longer owns the vehicle. It could literally have been years since the vehicle changed hands and the original owner may not even know who owns it at that point in time. So, the recall notification gets thrown away with the junk mail and some owner out there continues to unknowingly drive an unsafe vehicle.
Consumers continue to keep their vehicles longer and as those same vehicles can change hands multiple times this issue of older vehicles on the road then becomes especially noteworthy. Recalls increase in number and OEMs and dealers attempt to contact customers to get their recall repairs completed -- all while the NHTSA and legislators breathe down their necks.
Let’s face it - many of the owners of these older vehicles patronize independent repair shops. Because the independents cannot repair these problems they have little incentive to make any effort to identify any recalls and certainly don’t want to risk losing business by referring customers to a franchised dealership. This means that between government, OEM and dealership records, as a group, we need to do everything we can to identify these 2nd, 3rd and even 4th (or more) generation owners to inform them that they are driving unsafe vehicles. It is important that we all do our utmost to compel them to come into the dealership and get the repairs completed.
Some state DMV agencies are considering recall notification as part of the vehicle registration process. In Pennsylvania, legislation has been proposed that will require independent repair shops to notify owners of open recalls as part of the annual safety inspection. Until these reforms takes shape for consumers it’s up to the collective automotive industry to do what we can.
Within the dealership community there is a unique opportunity to find these customers in your local market, notify them and gain their trust AND potential future business. I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants to put themselves or their families in danger by driving around in an unsafe vehicle. The entity that reaches them first with a recall notification and then services them well will be remembered. This is especially true for those that make it easy for the customer and provide an outstanding experience. There are many dealerships exploring ways to work with independent repair shops to create such an environment of trust when it comes to consumer safety.
I am sure your dealership spends a lot of money on customer acquisition in both sales and service. Effective recall management and a comprehensive approach to owner identification make for the easiest and least expensive way to acquire service customers. You are also performing a valuable service for your local community.
Yes, it’s a complicated puzzle that takes effort but, in the end, it’s worth it.