Effective Communication in Auto Recalls Encourages Corrective Action Among Drivers

A new study by PNU researcher Professor Bae finds that car owners with faulty vehicles are more likely to take prompt corrective action when the faults are life-threatening, the corrective procedure is free or if they are early risers. Standardized reminder letters containing critical alert messages are therefore necessary to make the recall process more efficient. Credit: Yong-Kyun Bae of PNU, Korea

Automobile recalls for manufacturing defects are key to minimizing potential risks and improving public safety. In the event of a recall, the manufacturer sends a recall letter to the vehicle owner, which communicates the details of the risk involved and the subsequent corrective actions. However, it is not clear whether the reminder letters lead to prompt corrective actions.

This motivated Professor Yong-Kyun Bae of Pusan ​​National University in Korea to investigate corrective behaviors among American vehicle owners in response to automobile recalls. “Consumers always face potential risks from defective products. Without proper treatment and preventive tools through product recalls, they cannot be protected from unreasonable risk and accidental harm,” notes the Professor Bae.

In a recent study published in Applied EconomyDr. Bae assessed the key factors that determine the rate of correction, given by the ratio of the number of automobiles inspected and corrected to the total number of vehicles involved in the recall, among US vehicle owners.

To do this, US automobile recall data was collected for the period 2014-2018 and the following three questions were investigated: Do recall letters successfully convey the risk of defects to vehicle owners? ? Are vehicle owners opting for cost reduction actions based on the information in the letter? Do they exhibit behavioral differences in their attitude towards corrective actions?

Analyzes highlighted the effectiveness of owner notification letters in two scenarios. First, when the reminder letter included warning words indicating life-threatening risks, such as death, the correction rate was higher. Second, more vehicle owners took prompt corrective action when the letter pointed out that the corrective procedure was “free”.

“Results showed that vehicle owners reacted more actively to the most risky defects. Therefore, effective transmission of recall information from manufacturers to vehicle owners is necessary to remove defective vehicles and improve public safety,” says Professor Bae.

In addition to highlighting the need for effective and standardized communication in reminder letters, the study answered the question about behavioral differences among owners by classifying vehicle owners into two broad categories. On the one hand, the “procrastinators”, who only take corrective action in the event of high-risk defects and inexpensive corrective procedures.

On the other hand, there were the “early birds”, who acted quickly as soon as they were informed, regardless of the severity of the defect. To improve the correction rate, the study recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) apply corrective actions to procrastinators.

Overall, the results of this study add significantly to our understanding of human behavior in relation to concern for personal safety. This could greatly benefit manufacturers and regulators by ensuring effective communication with appropriate warning messages in recall letters. “With effective recall regulations, consumers can lead a safer life by consuming safer goods and services. Hence, it would improve the general welfare of society for the benefit of all its members,” concludes the professor Bae.

US launches free app for vehicle recall alerts

More information:
Yong-Kyun Bae, Corrective Behavior of Vehicle Owners in US Automotive Recalls, Applied Economy (2022). DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2022.2107163

Provided by Pusan ​​National University

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