Have you ever wondered whether your car might have had a manufacturer’s recall but you were not entirely sure, nor were you sure how to easily find out?

Whether this describes you or not, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is sure recalls have been missed by too many consumers here and there, and it is stepping up requirements for automakers to make them loud and clear.

For starters, all automakers and motorcycle manufacturers have until Aug. 14, 2014 (one year from now) to install a tool on their Web sites to let consumers quickly search for recalls based on their vehicle id number (VIN).

The notices by manufacturers must also be clearer with such descriptors as “URGENT SAFETY RECALL” in large-font capital letters at the top of the letter.

The goal? Consumer peace of mind, and ultimately, increased safety.

“Safety is our highest priority, and an informed consumer is one of our strongest allies in that effort,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Presently, automakers that include Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen already offer a VIN search on their sites.

Further, NHTSA itself plans to set up a Web page for the whole industry as a one-stop source to plug in VIN numbers to look for recall notices. This system is expected to be updated by secure data uploaded direct from respective manufacturer’s sites.

As things are, these rules are actually a softening of initial rules proposed that automakers must update NHTSA’s data base every single day as applicable.

Honda reportedly complained this would cost it $40,000 per day or almost $15 million annually.

NHTSA relented, but the new rules also call for recall notice envelopes to clearly state “safety recall notice” and the specific VIN for the affected vehicle must be listed in the letter.
Additionally, the logos of the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA must be stamped on the envelope in blue or black text.

In red text on the recall notice itself must be stated “an important safety recall notice issued in accordance with federal law.”

NHTSA deems all this necessary given that, depending ion the defect, completion of repairs done under recalls hovers around 70 percent at present.

That means as many as three out of 10 consumers now miss recalls issued.

Automotive News