In August, NHTSA adopted numerous amendments to its recall and early warning reporting (EWR) regulations. (See 78 Federal Register 51382 (Aug. 20, 2013)). Several of these amendments – which impact all vehicle and equipment manufacturers conducting safety recalls –become effective on October 21, 2013. Other amendments, including some that apply only to specified categories of manufacturers, will become effective February 18, 2014 and August 20, 2014. Following is a summary of the key changes, along with their applicability and effective dates.
Amendments to NHTSA’s Recall Reporting Regulations
Effective October 21, 2013, manufacturers must include in their defect/noncompliance reports a description of the risk to motor vehicle safety reasonably related to the defect or noncompliance. Previously, this information was required in the letter to dealers and consumers, but not in the initial submission to NHTSA.
Effective October 21, 2013, for equipment recalls, manufacturers must identify the brand (or trade) name, model name, model number, as applicable, and any other information necessary to describe the equipment being recalled.
Effective October 21, 2013, manufacturers must advise NHTSA of any changes to a previously-submitted defect/noncompliance report within five (5) business days after the manufacturer confirms the accuracy of the information.
Effective October 21, 2013, all owner letters must be sent within 60 days after the defect/noncompliance report was filed.
Effective February 18, 2014, the phrase “IMPORTANT SAFETY RECALL” must be placed on the top of all owner notification letters. Immediately below this statement or (if that is not possible) in another conspicuous location, the letter must include the phrase: “This notice applies to your vehicle [manufacturer to insert VIN for the particular vehicle].” Additionally, the envelopes used to mail the owner letters must be marked with a NHTSA-specified label that incorporates the logos of the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA.
Effective August 20, 2014, all defect/noncompliance reports, quarterly recall status reports, and recall-related third-party communications must be submitted using NHTSA-specified templates through a NHTSA-based web portal. NHTSA has indicated that it will conduct a workshop in the coming months to assist manufacturers in understanding the new electronic submission process.
Adoption of a New VIN-Based Recall Lookup Tool
Effective August 20, 2014, high volume manufacturers of light vehicles (25,000 or more per year) and motorcycles (5,000 or more per year) must provide a VIN-based recall lookup tool on their website (or on the website of a third party) to enable consumers to determine the recall status of their vehicle by entering the vehicle’s VIN. Among other requirements, the lookup tool must be available to the public on the Internet for free; must be searchable by vehicle make, model and VIN; must be accessible via a hyperlink conspicuously placed on the manufacturer’s main U.S. web page; and cannot contain sales or marketing information.
Manufacturers will also be required to program their VIN lookup tool to “talk” to NHTSA’s website to enable consumers to access the manufacturer’s search function through the NHTSA website.
Amendments to the Early Warning Reporting Requirements
Effective August 20, 2014, manufacturers of 5,000 or more light vehicles annually must include the following additional data in their early warning reports:
o The vehicle type involved in each incident (e.g., passenger car, multi-purpose vehicles, light trucks, or incomplete vehicles);
o The fuel or propulsion system of each vehicle (nine (9) categories, including: compressed natural gas (CNG), electric battery power (EBP), spark ignition fuel (SIF), etc.);
o Claims data related to electronic stability control (ESC) systems, forward collision avoidance (FCA) systems, lane departure prevention (LDP) systems and backover prevention systems.
Effective August 20, 2014, high volume manufacturers of buses, emergency vehicles, and medium-heavy vehicles must disclose whether the incident, claim, or report involved ESC and/or roll stability control (RSC).
Effective August 20, 2014, manufacturers must submit their substantially similar vehicle list to NHTSA electronically.
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Attorneys in our NHTSA & Motor Vehicle Safety practice can answer any questions you may have about these new rules.