As demonstrated again by General Motors' billion-dollar recall of all Chevrolet Bolts, the system for processing automotive recalls in the U.S. is in desperate need of an overhaul. And given the gradual switch to electrified propulsion, now is the time for federal and state regulators, automakers, suppliers and dealers to come together to fix what's broken with how what's broken gets fixed.
Reforms are needed up and down the recall chain: from accurately tracking vehicle owners to making sure dealers have adequate supplies of replacement parts and proper levels of compensation to process recalls in a timely fashion.
The best place to start is at the federal level. Congress should require states and territories to report auto registration data at least weekly into a federal database, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation. To conduct a successful recall, automakers must be able to quickly reach the owners of recalled vehicles. That is exponentially harder if states maintain their own databases and don't share that information. Compiling state ownership data into a national database to be used exclusively for recalls would be smart, cheap and effective.