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Safety Recall Errors and Delays

What you don’t know will get you.

Are you covered when it comes to motorcycle safety recalls?

Even the most diligent dealer may be affected by the errors and delays in the safety recall “ecosystem” and may find it difficult to stay ahead of the situation, let alone stay out of trouble.

The single biggest issue we see when discussing safety recalls with potential clients: They think they are covered. They are not. They are at the end of the tail being wagged by the manufacturers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Why? Because there are significant data errors and timing delays in the safety recall information that dealers rely on.

The Safety Recall Ecosystem

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are the source of a vehicle’s potential safety recall repair status. The graphic below shows the major sources of safety recall status information, some of which are available publicly and from OEM Dealer Communications Systems (DCSs) that are exclusive to each OEM franchised dealer network.   

The Broken Safety Recall System: Errors

It would reduce confusion if these sources reported the same safety recall information at the same time, but that is far from the case, because there is significant complexity in safety recall reporting and with synching publication schedules across all OEMs and NHTSA. Errors and timing issues are the norm.

When we started the company and first downloaded NHTSA’s safety recall database, we found a 30% error rate! We thought this couldn’t be. But it was true. Since then, we have uncovered more errors and delays throughout the safety recall ecosystem, not only from NHTSA’s recall database, but also false negatives from SaferCar.gov (which says a vehicle is clear of recalls when we know it’s not), vehicle history reports (VHRs), other recall service providers and even the OEMs’ own DCSs!

Unless you are checking multiple sources on every motorcycle every day, you are likely missing recalls. This not only applies to off-brand (where most dealers rely on SaferCar.gov or a VHR) but for in-brand as well.

Some of the types of documented errors that plague the safety recall data from NHTSA and the OEMs include: 

  1. NHTSA’s VIN-specific lookup site (SaferCar.gov) can fail to report open recalls.
  2. NHTSA’s official year, make, model safety recall database contains significant attribution errors, assigning recalls to incorrect makes, model years and models.
  3. NHTSA can completely fail to publish safety recalls to its official safety recall database.
  4. VHR companies and other “recall data” providers regularly miss safety recalls.
  5. OEM public recall sites and their DCSs can have errors and be out of sync with each other, reporting different VIN-specific recall status results at any given time.
  6. OEMs may publish safety recalls as service campaigns, confusing even the most diligent recall manager, especially for off-brand vehicles.

The Broken Safety Recall System: Delays

Analysis of NHTSA’s database shows that NHTSA publishes safety recalls an average of 9.8 days late, with nearly 100 recalls up to six weeks late. How many motorcycles do you sell in six weeks?

There are several types of delays:

  1. NHTSA can publish safety recalls to its official recall database or on SaferCar.gov before the OEMs publish their corresponding recall IDs, or even before they know the complete VIN pool affected.
  2. NHTSA can also lag behind the OEMs in publishing the official safety recall ID and description details.
  3. OEMs publish safety recalls before NHTSA has assigned official recall ID numbers.
  4. A NHTSA ID number can exist, but NHTSA’s own recall ID look-up site may not recognize its own number.

Unless you deal with recalls every day, checking multiple sources and having automated self-auditing processes set up, it is nearly impossible to know the true safety recall status of a motorcycle at any one time.

Consequently, dealers are buying and selling vehicles with open safety recalls, and don’t know it.

What can motorcycle dealers do to protect themselves and their customers?

We will answer that question in the next article.


Mark Paul is the president and CEO of AutoAp Inc. and the author of “Safety Recalls: Think You’re Covered?” For more information about safety recalls, visit www.autoap.com and www.profitfromrecalls.com.

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