For carmakers, it is far easier to recall newer model year vehicles than older ones. This was exemplified in the case of Stephanie Erdman, whose MY2002 Honda Civic was hit with another car near Destin, Florida on Sept. 1, 2013. The accident had the car’s airbag inflator exploded, sending shrapnel into the cabin and severely damaging her right eye.
She testified in the United States Congress on Nov. 20, 2014 that Honda initially had sent a recall notice to the wrong address. Then, a Honda dealership failed to warn her of the defect on three occasions when she brought her car in for service. Likewise, a call center representative left a recall message on Erdman’s voicemail — three days after the accident.
Older used cars like Erdman’s have been a problem for carmakers during recall – hard to track down and owners have the tendency not to respond. The problem of tracking older cars down has been at the fault of a central vehicle registry in the US, or the lack of one.
According to Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, the recall rate for older vehicles can drop to less than 50 percent. According to a government analysis of callback between 2000 and 2008, around 65 percent of recalled vehicles each year are fixed within 18 months of the recall.
With over 17 million US vehicles recalled so far for suspected faulty Takata airbag inflators – as estimated by Reuters, – that means around 6 million vehicles would have unfixed airbag inflators that could potentially explode and send deadly shrapnel inside the cabin. According to Ditlow, he has been suggesting for years for a passing of a law that requires dealers to complete all recalls before they could sell a used car.
In private deals, a buyer would be required to complete the recall before registering the vehicle. On the other hand, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has proposed a law that requires all dealerships to inform used-car buyers of any open recalls.
Currently, carmakers are not required to send recall notices to independent used-car dealers, which have to check vehicle identification numbers at SaferCar.gov to check any callback notice. [source: automotive news - sub. required]