GAO Report - NHTSA Has Options to Improve the Safety Defect Recall Process - June 2011


Click here to view the full report in .PDF


Why GAO Did This Study
In 2010, auto manufacturers recalled
more vehicles than any other year,
according to the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA), the federal oversight
authority for vehicle recalls.
However, many recalled vehicles are
never fixed, posing a risk to vehicle
operators, other drivers, and
pedestrians. After the recent recalls
of Toyota vehicles, Congress raised
questions about the auto safety
defect recall process, including the
sufficiency of NHTSA’s oversight
authorities and whether vehicle
owners are being effectively
motivated to comply with recalls.

In response, GAO reviewed laws and
documents and interviewed NHTSA
and stakeholders about the (1) extent
of NHTSA’s role in the recall process,
and how its authorities compare to
selected federal and foreign agencies
that oversee recalls; (2) benefits and
challenges of the recall process for
NHTSA and manufacturers; and (3)
options for improving the recall
process. GAO also conducted focus
groups with vehicle owners to better
understand their perspectives.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that NHTSA (1)
modify requirements for notification
letters; (2) enhance and publicize its
Web site (3) better use
manufacturers’ data; and (4) seek
legislative authority to notify
potential used car buyers of recalls. 
NHTSA agreed to consider GAO’s
recommendations