Months after GM’s February 2014 recall announcement, five congressional hearings, and intense media coverage, over one million cars with defective ignition switches are still on the road. The faulty ignition switch, tied to at least 23 deaths, can cause the car to shut off while being driven, disabling the air bags, anti-lock brakes and power steering.
Two months after the recall announcement, GM supplier Delphi was ready to ship the replacement parts. Since then GM has fixed over one million of the switches, while over one million owners have yet to respond. Beyond the usual ominous-sounding recall letters, GM has sent out Facebook messages and made phone calls. CEO Mary Barra has even sent a personal letter urging people to get the switches replaced. In some cases, dealers have offered to pick up and bring in the vehicles for repair, leaving a loaner car with the owner.
Lack of response to recall announcements is not unusual. About two-thirds of recalled cars are repaired across the auto industry as a whole. Car owners, if they have heard of a recall, often ignore notices, thinking they are junk mail, or don’t realize how serious the defect is because it hasn’t given them any trouble.
There has been at least one fatal accident involving a recalled car since the recall was announced. The accident occurred on Interstate 81 in Virginia on March 18, when a Saturn crashed into a tractor trailer on a snowy road.
“Usually those people who don’t get their cars repaired are the ones who haven’t seen any symptoms, said John O’Dell, senior editor for Edmunds.com automotive website. People just don’t want to be bothered. They don’t see this as a problem. It’s not happening to me. Then they just forget about it.”