Recall Roulette

An under-the-hood look at safety issues
found in used cars and ride-hailing vehicles

If you own a car, chances are you’ve received at least one safety recall notice. And while many of the issues seem relatively minor or even insignificant, it must be important to have it fixed, or the manufacturer wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of issuing a recall, right?

The most recent issue underscoring the importance of such recalls is the Takata airbag fiasco, which has become the largest recall in history. The faulty airbags affected more than 41 million vehicles across 19 automakers and caused 15 deaths and more than 100 injuries.1 In 2018 alone, there were 722 recalls in the United States, which affected more than 29 million vehicles—down from the 900 recalls affecting more than 42 million vehicles in 2017.2

Unless the issue directly affects your vehicle, open recalls probably aren’t something most people think about—especially not when getting into an Uber or Lyft, or buying a used vehicle. But as these ride-sharing options become more popular, more people are paying closer attention to a vehicle’s health and safety.

Ride-hailing services

A recent Consumer Reports investigation examined the safety records of about 94,000 vehicles used by Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City and Seattle areas. It found that one in six vehicles—or about 16.2%—have unaddressed safety issues.3

These numbers may seem high, but according to Carfax, the web-based service that tracks vehicle histories, it’s typical. On average, one in five vehicles has at least one open recall, which is about 57 million to 60 million total vehicles.4

Consumer Reports’ investigation also found that 1,274 ride-hail vehicles (1.4%) still have deadly Takata airbags, and 25 vehicles have at least five unfixed recalls.5

Despite Uber’s claim that “The Uber experience was built with safety in mind” and Lyft being “committed to driver and passenger safety,”6, 7 neither organization requires their drivers to address vehicle recalls.

According to a statement, Lyft said, “Lyft drivers use their personal vehicles to drive on the platform—the same car they use in their daily lives, driving their kids to school or friends around town. Drivers have a strong personal incentive to make sure their car is in a safe operating condition.”8

Uber at least prohibits drivers from using vehicles with “Do Not Drive” warnings from manufacturers or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“As part of our commitment, we’re proactively blocking vehicles with open recalls that include a ‘Do Not Drive’ notice from the manufacturer or the NHTSA from the app until they have taken action on their vehicle,” said an Uber spokesperson.9


The unaddressed recalls issue extends beyond ride-hailing vehicles, too. When you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, you expect it to be safe and reliable. But that might not always be the case. State laws vary, and in many areas, dealerships aren’t required to fix—or even disclose—safety recalls on the used vehicles they sell.10 Statistics show that about one-quarter of those vehicles have open recalls.11

“Used-car shoppers are on their own because dealers and private-party sellers aren’t required to make these needed repairs on used vehicles,” said Will Wallace, Consumer Reports senior policy analyst. “They don’t even have to inform potential buyers that a recall has been issued for the car they’re considering.”12

Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a consumer advocacy group, calls it recalled-car roulette.

“Dealers should always fix unrepaired safety recalls before they sell a car to a consumer … You don’t know if that defect is going to happen that day, or maybe sometime down the road,” she said.13

Manufacturers perform recall repair work free of charge, so it should be easy for dealerships to arrange to have used vehicles they are selling fixed, Shahan said. But that’s not always the case. For large recalls, parts shortages mean it could take years to fix all affected vehicles. According to the National Independent Auto Dealers Association, pulling all vehicles with open recalls could cut trade-in values and disrupt sales.14

Mitigating risk

Federal laws require new car dealers and rental companies to fix open recalls and defects, but, as mentioned, those same protections don’t extend to used cars or ride-hailing vehicles. So what should you do? If you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, check for open recalls by looking up the vehicle identification number (VIN) on safercar.gov, a free site offered by the NHTSA.

“Consumers can make a demand of any seller that they fix any open defects before selling the car to them,” Wallace said. “And that’s a reasonable request, and the burden for safety in this case shouldn’t fall on consumers.”15

As for ride-hailing vehicles, it’s impractical—and probably impossible—to look up the driver’s VIN and reject the ride if the vehicle has open recalls. Consumer Reports advises riders to download the myCarfax app, which allows the rider to look up the Uber or Lyft driver’s vehicle safety information via the car’s license plate number. (Riders receive information about the driver’s car after driver and rider are connected.)16

Safety advocates, on the other hand, say the onus should be on the organizations to ensure their drivers are operating safe vehicles.

“Uber, Lyft, taxi companies and anyone offering for-hire rides should check cars for open recalls, and ban any with unrepaired safety defects from picking up passengers,” Wallace said. “If they won’t do so, states and local governments should make them.”17

According to Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, Uber and Lyft have the perfect opportunity to make roads safer.

“Uber and Lyft have the ability to have zero recalled cars on their platforms at the push of a button,” Levine said. “They both claim to be technology companies yet refuse to use that technology to take this obvious step to decrease the danger from unrepaired recalls on their drivers and customers.”18

—compiled by Lindsay Pietenpol, assistant editor


  1. Consumer Reports editors, “Takata Airbag Recall: Everything You Need to Know,” Consumer Reports, March 29, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/takata-recall.
  2. Michael Strong, “Uber, Lyft Drivers Have Poor Recall Repair Record,” Detroit Bureau, May 22, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/poor-recall-record.
  3. Ryan Felton, “1 in 6 Uber and Lyft Cars Have Open Safety Recalls, Consumer Reports’ Study Suggests,” Consumer Reports, May 21, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/uber-lyft-recalls.
  4. Jonathan Hardison, “Why Are There So Many Unresolved Car Recalls?” 6WBRC, June 14, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/so-many-recalls.
  5. Felton, “1 in 6 Uber and Lyft Cars Have Open Safety Recalls, Consumer Reports’ Study Suggests,” see reference 3.
  6. “Rider Safety,” Uber, www.uber.com/us/en/ride/safety.
  7. “Frequently Asked Question: Is Lyft Safe?” Lyft, www.lyft.com/drive-with-lyft.
  8. Felton, “1 in 6 Uber and Lyft Cars Have Open Safety Recalls, Consumer Reports’ Study Suggests,” see reference 3.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Chris Chmura, Joe Rojas, James Jackson and Alex Martinet, “‘It’s Recalled Car Roulette’: Some Used Cars Sold With Unrepaired Safety Recalls,” NBC Bay Area, June 5, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/recall-roulette.
  11. Hardison, “Why Are There So Many Unresolved Car Recalls?” see reference 4.
  12. Keith Barry, “Make Sure the Used Car You Want Doesn’t Need Recall Work,” Consumer Reports, Feb. 2, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/used-car-recalls.
  13. Chmura, “‘It’s Recalled Car Roulette’: Some Used Cars Sold With Unrepaired Safety Recalls,” see reference 10.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Barry, “Make Sure the Used Car You Want Doesn’t Need Recall Work,” see reference 12.
  16. Felton, “1 in 6 Uber and Lyft Cars Have Open Safety Recalls, Consumer Reports’ Study Suggests,” see reference 3.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ibid.

New @ ASQ

The deadline to submit nominations for any one of ASQ’s 15 medals and awards is Tuesday, Oct. 1.

The medals and awards recognize individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, technical achievement and distinguished service to the quality profession and ASQ. Included in the medals and awards program are:

  • The Juran Medal, awarded to those who have shown a distinguished performance as an organizational leader.
  • The Feigenbaum Medal, presented to someone 35 years of age or younger who has displayed exceptional leadership, professionalism and potential in the quality field.

For more information on all the medals and awards, past recipients, and to download application forms, visit asq.org/about-asq/asq-awards.

Nominations are now open for positions on the 2021 ASQ Board of Directors, including chair elect, treasurer, and director at large. Self-nominations are welcome.

Visit asq.org/about-asq/leadership/nominations to see the application form along with instructions. Submissions are due by Aug. 31.


Auto Insurance Satisfaction
Scores Hit All-Time High

Overall customer satisfaction with auto insurance providers has reached its highest level ever, according to a recent J.D. Power study.

“Auto insurance customers have more access, control and visibility into the details of their policies, and that is translating into record-high levels of customer satisfaction,” said Robert Lajdziak, a consultant at J.D. Power. “As customers take greater control of their auto policies, it’s also becoming more important for insurers to offer superior digital experiences and easy access to account management features, such as bill pay, policy information and an integrated experience for customers who bundle multiple policies.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • Overall customer satisfaction with U.S. auto insurers improved this year and is now at a record-high level of 831 (on a 1,000-point scale). Of all auto insurance customers, the 23% of customers who use direct distribution models have the highest overall satisfaction.
  • Satisfaction levels are significantly higher when auto insurance customers bundle their auto policy with additional policies, such as home and life insurance (837) than when they do not bundle (812).
  • Customers said that auto insurance premiums have leveled in 2019, following significant increases the previous two years.
  • Customers’ reliance on agents—feeling they are extremely important—has declined 33% over the past 20 years. Nearly one-fifth (17%) of customers with an agent say they have never met their agent in person or over the phone.

For more from the study, visit www.jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2019-us-auto-insurance-study.


FDA Plans to Revamp How Dietary Supplements Industry Is Monitored

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans earlier this year to revamp its oversight and regulation of the dietary supplements industry—the first update in 25 years.

The industry is reportedly worth more than $40 billion, and more than 50,000 supplement products are available to consumers.

The top goal of the FDA’s new regulation is to ensure that consumers still have access to safe, well-manufactured, appropriately labeled products while holding accountable those who do not comply with the laws.

“Legitimate industry benefits from a framework that inspires the confidence of consumers and providers. Patients benefit from products that meet high standards for quality,” said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

For more on the FDA’s plans, see its statement at https://tinyurl.com/fda-dietary-supplements.


New Guide Published For Accredited Third-Party Certification Program

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published an electronic users’ guide for its accredited third-party certification program portal.

Through this voluntary program, established by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency recognizes accreditation bodies that may accredit third-party certification bodies. The certification bodies will be able to conduct food safety audits and issue certifications for facilities producing human and animal foods, and for the foods they produce.

To access the user guide, visit www.fda.gov/media/119119/download.

Getting to Know…

Bill Lacy

Current position: Senior quality assurance engineer at Xenex Disinfection Services, San Antonio, TX.

Education: Bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

What was your introduction to quality? For one of my first jobs out of college, I worked at a small company that received machines from a factory outside the United States with multiple quality issues. I made this known to management with data, pictures and graphs. Management replied, “Then do something about it.”

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? a balanced home and work life.

Previous noteworthy jobs? While working at a medical device contract manufacturer, a product line was having a significant fallout rate and losing a substantial amount of money to scrap. I was assigned the quality lead role and was able to use multiple quality skills to implement improvements. It became the companywide gold standard manufacturing process.

What ASQ activities do you participate in? I am currently the industry liaison for the Inspection Division.

Personal: Married with three girls.

What are your favorite ways to relax? Getting outside to ride my hybrid bike, and taking morning and evening walks with my wife.

What was the last movie you saw? “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”

Quality quote: Quality stands for quickly-understanding-assessing-listening-investigating-thoroughly-yearning.

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