NHTSA launches VIN tool to search for recalls

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Car buyers and owners can use a vehicle’s identification number to identify open or unrepaired safety recalls with a new search tool released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration starting today.

The recall search tool is available on NHTSA’s website. Consumers enter a VIN to find out whether the vehicle has any open, unrepaired recalls and whether the automaker has a fix available.

“This should be a one-stop shop for consumers,” Jim Schulte, NHTSA’s director of digital strategies, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “If you have a recall that has not been repaired, this is how you find out.”

The introduction of the search tool comes as automakers, led by General Motors, recall a record number of light vehicles in the United States. 

NHTSA says 37.5 million vehicles were recalled in the United States in first six months of 2014. That's more cars and trucks recalled than in any prior year.

Schulte said the search tool’s database covers light vehicles dating back 15 years. After the VIN is entered into the search engine, open recalls are noted in red text. Vehicles without open recalls -- or recalls that already have been repaired -- will not garner any search results.

NHTSA also is working with the National Automobile Dealers Association to integrate the VIN search tool at dealerships.

Forrest McConnell, NADA’s chairman, said the agency’s VIN search tool will help dealerships identify whether a used car has an unrepaired recall before making a purchase or taking in a trade.

“It will also help dealerships to determine whether used vehicles in inventory are under recall and to provide used-car shoppers with useful safety recall information,” McConnell said in a statement.

Beginning today, NHTSA also is requiring that major light vehicle manufacturers provide VIN search capability for uncompleted recalls on their own company websites. They are obligated to update the data at least weekly because NHTSA’s VIN search tool relies on the information provided by automakers.

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com.


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