aOn April 28, 2015 the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx opened the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) event, Retooling Recalls: Getting to 100% Completion, with a call on all in the room to find a way to get the 20% of recalled vehicles that haven’t repaired fixed. The rest of the event saw industry leaders, government workers, and safety advocates rising to the challenge. They shared best practices, struggles, and innovative solutions throughout the day.

At the moment NHTSA’s recall completion rate ranges from 20%-80% completion depending on the car age and other factors. Between 2000-2008 the NHTSA had an average recall completion rate of 65%.  This is a significantly better recall completion rate than the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) rate for recalled 2013 children’s products  (14%). Luckily there were some key takeaways from the event that apply to both the NHTSA and the CPSC.

For instance, NHTSA best practices include the “Nag Factor”. Basically manufacturers reach out to each consumer multiple times through different means. This helps motivate consumers to comply with the recall. Also, all car manufacturers have to use a special, uniform NHTSA envelope label when mailing their consumers about a recall. This distinguishes important recall information from junk mail and keeps these letters from ending up in the trash before they’re ever opened.

There were also key insights from General Motors (GM) about the recall process and what they learned. GM learned that the recall response is not the same for every type of consumer. They used this information to tailor the recall outreach to different types of consumers and they responded positively. Also awareness doesn’t always result in consumer motivation. People have busy lives and the recall process can be confusing. Therefore it often takes a carrot (compensation) and a stick (the nag factor) to get consumers to comply with the recall.

There were many more useful insights and presentations can be accessed here if you are interested. However, the biggest takeaway from the event is that the recall completion rate should be 100%. We should do everything in our power to get it there. Tune in next week to see what progress KID has made with the CPSC regarding recall effectiveness