The number of vehicles recalled in the U.S. reached a nine-year high in 2013, with auto manufacturers recalling a total of 21.9 million vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported.
Automakers issued a total of 632 recalls in 2013, up 9% from 2012. In comparison, 2012 saw a total of 581 recalls in the U.S., affecting 16.4 million vehicles.
In 2013, Chrysler Group issued the most recalls: 36, which covered nearly 4.7 million vehicles. But Toyota’s 15 recalls affected the highest number of vehicles from a single manufacturer: nearly 5.3 million.
A Record Recall Year in 2014?
The first four months of 2014 saw global recall announcements from Toyota covering a total of 6.4 million vehicles (including 1.8 million in the U.S.) and General Motors for 6.26 million vehicles.
GM’s widely reported recall to fix power steering issues (for more than 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S.) covers model years 2004 to 2010, while the recall involving ignition switches for 2.2 million vehicles covers model years 2003 to 2011.
While these recalls fall outside of the model years currently used in the great majority of rental fleets, other recent GM recalls do cover later model vehicles, mostly van and truck models.
These include recalls for 2009- to 2014-MY Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, 2008- to 2013-MY Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse SUVs, 2014-MY Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, 2015-MY Suburban and Tahoe SUVs and some 2015-MY Yukon SUVs.
As well, GM announced a recall for Chevrolet Cruze 1.4L turbo sedans from the 2013 and 2014 model years.
Toyota’s recalls announced in 2014 are for vehicles in model years 2010 and older.
Automakers have recalled about 9 million vehicles in the U.S. through mid-April. If this pace continues, 2014 would break the record of total recalled vehicles of 30.8 million set in 2004.
Recalls and Car Rental
The American Car Rental Association (ACRA) backs S. 921, the Safe Rental Car Act, which would mandate the immediate grounding and repair of any rental car under a recall.
While this bill makes its way through the legislative process, car rental companies are not under any legal obligation to immediately ground and fix vehicles. Nonetheless, while individual car rental company’s policies on recalls vary, they generally call for recalled vehicles “to be repaired as promptly as possible.” This has become an even greater challenge in light of the high number of recalls recently.
“Just in the last few weeks, it has been raining recalls and the dealers seem ill-prepared to actually correct them until a later date,” says Monty Merrill, an Austin-based Dollar and Thrifty licensee.
Merrill praises Toyota, however, in its handling of the 2010 recalls for sticking accelerator pedals. At that time, the manufacturer sent technicians to his rental lot to make the repairs. “We scheduled [repairs] during lower utility periods and it was not really too disruptive,” he says.
Today, Merrill tries to schedule recall repairs during slower periods, but it isn’t easy, he says. Overall, Merrill says he tries to mitigate the logistical hassles of recalls by varying the models in his fleet.
When the legislation finally passes, the fleet logistics and customer service challenges of immediately grounding all recalled rental vehicles to make repairs will only be intensified, which will force rental companies to fine-tune fleet planning even more as a result.
For updates on recalls, car rental operators should visit NHTSA’s website, www.nhtsa.gov, and use its searchable database for models by year, make and model.