The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been in crackdown mode all year. This week, the NHTSA announced it will require automakers to make recalled vehicles searchable by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in the future, and GM’s (NYSE:GM) Chevy Cruze stands to figure prominently in searches. The AP reports the automaker is recalling nearly 300,000 cars wearing the Cruze emblem.
The news outlet reports the issue with the Cruze is related to failing brakes in the compact sedan, an issue said to have been behind 27 crashes, none of which resulted in injuries. The Cruze has been a big success for Chevy and GM, ranking ninth in the list of best-selling cars in July, and twelfth for all of 2013 through July. GM has sold over 160,000 Cruze vehicles already this year. However, the car has also been topping recall lists.
The AP reports that NHTSA figures have the Cruze on its eighth recall following the announcement of the brake issues. Previous recall issues have involved problems with air bags, the fuel tank, the transmission, and the car’s steering. The affected models have a 1.4-L turbocharged gas engine and 6T40 transmission, and are 2011 and 2012 versions of the Cruze that were assembled in Ohio. The NHTSA’s new system will make the reporting of such recalls easier for consumers to locate.
According to the new system, drivers and car shoppers will be able to plug in the VIN and find out immediately whether the car was subject to a recall and whether the issue was fixed. Instead of trying to decipher whether a specific car was affected, the VIN will do the work instantly. The information will be posted on ww.safecar.gov, which is the only official auto safety website, according to the NHTSA statement.
After trying to force automakers to update the database weekly, the NHTSA compromised and settled for weekly updates from car companies. According to the New York Times, automakers of all stripes pushed back hard on the NHTSA as the agency tried to get manufacturers to post daily updates. In fact, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers called the original proposal “costly, burdensome…[and] subject to data integrity issues,” the agency reported.
Among the automakers named in the Times report were Honda (NYSE:HMC), Toyota (NYSE:TM), and Ford (NYSE:F). Each of these companies suggested the proposal would not advance safety goals in any substantial way. Though the burden of updating information every day would be considerable, car owners in possession of an automobile with failing brakes or other problems would certainly like the information at their disposal.
In the final agreement, the one-week update system is a huge upgrade over the current method of reporting recalls and informing the customer how to handle the issue’s fix. According to the NHTSA, only about 70 percent of recalled cars actually come back to dealerships for fixes. While that number includes likely insignificant problems in automobiles, others are simply unaware of the any issue at all.
Automakers will have until next summer to prepare to submit the information on a weekly basis to the website. According to an L.A. Times report, there are numerous automakers that have set up a system much like the one the NHTSA is proposing. However, General Motors is not one of them.