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Easier said than done

When new legislation is proposed, you hope it fixes the problem it is designed to address without creating even more problems, sometimes worse than the initial issue. Recalls by the automotive industry are on the mind of many, after last year set a record for total recalls.

Last year saw more than 63 million vehicles recalled. This included the General Motors defective ignition switch, which could turn off the engine and air bag, causing an accident and leaving the driver unprotected. It also included the Takata air bag, which on some cars could explode and send metal shards at the driver, which in some cases, caused their death.

While the GM defect took 10 years of accidents before it led to a recall, the Takata defect highlighted another danger with recalls. Honda recalled various model years over a long period. During this time, many Hondas were sold, but there is no procedure to notify purchasers of used cars their vehicles need a repair mandated by a recall.

A bill in Congress would force owners to obtain the fix from a recall before they could renew their registration. While this is a good idea, the bill presents some problems.

For one, there is apparently no funding mechanism that allow the states to process this new information. Departments of motor vehicles are often less than adequately funded, and they would likely need new computer systems, training and support to operate registrations tied to vehicle recalls.

A danger exists that such legislation could be seen as placing the responsibility and liability for repairs on the individual owner and not the carmaker who produced and sold the defective vehicle.

People die in vehicles that have been recalled but not fixed, because they are unaware or the manufacturer is short of parts to fix the problem. Any legislation must holistically look at all of the issues involved in fixing this process.

Prospect.org, "Reckoning With the New Auto Recall Bill," Rachel M. Cohen, March 19, 2015

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