A Change in Perspective Can Save Lives

Dec 23 was a sad day, indeed. A young man driving a 2001 Honda Accord was killed in an accident when his recalled Takata airbag shattered and he was fatally injured. Honda had previously made two attempts to contact and inform the original owner of the vehicle. When the car was sold to a second owner last July, Honda then sent a notice to the new owner. Honda also sent a second notice to the new owner, just the day before the accident.


Honda certainly did what it could to inform the owners. Perhaps they received the notices and discarded them. Maybe they didn’t open them at all. Or, it could be that the two owners did get the notices, opened them and simply chose not to take the time to have the work completed. We’ll never know. The sad fact is that a young man died.


The retail auto industry is really about two things – providing consumers with all the assistance they need to buy a new (or new to them) vehicle; and ensuring that the vehicles they own are roadworthy and safe to drive. And we do those things great.


However, the sad fact is that there are plenty of misperceptions about our industry in general. In fact, car dealerships (or car salespeople specifically) landed just under politicians in trustworthiness in a Gallup poll. Despite what may or may not have contributed to this stereotype in the past, this is far from the truth as far as most dealerships are concerned. There are so many great dealerships that strive to treat customers right; that are pillars of their communities; and that truly care. They far outweigh the minority who cling to that old school car mentality.


Every recall repair a dealership completes helps make that community’s roads just that much safer. Did the original or secondary owners of the Accord receive any notifications or outreach from their local dealers? Who knows – But, just as in television and radio commercials, it takes a minimum of a person hearing a message three times before they remember it.


Dealers are the good guys when it comes to recall repairs. The customers don’t have to pay a dime for the recall work. Do you get paid for it? Sure. But, from the customer’s viewpoint, you’re helping them have a safe mode of transportation.


Legislators are scrambling.  And, manufacturers obviously cannot do it by themselves. With the sheer volume of recent recalls, there is a certain level of “recall fatigue” among our consumers. They can get a little numb to the messages. We have to get a good clear message in front of these consumers, and do it enough times that they pay attention.


Make it a priority to contact and notify everyone in your market that needs recall repairs. Send high quality pieces that stand out and gain attention. Use multiple communications channels.  Instill a sense of urgency. Make it as convenient and easy as possible for your local community to complete the recall repair. And, let’s do this not because your dealership will make a few bucks; but because you’re helping make the roads safer for everyone.

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Comment by steven chessin on January 8, 2016 at 1:49pm

Such a sad story. As you say, the efforts must be increased. My idea would be to offer those owners a weekend driving a brand new car and to offer them a better trade-in, and to inspect the car for any other issues.This also clearly illustrates that Big Data is perfectly capable of following the sales of the car - and potential service and sales customers. Over the years there have been many recalls -- some life-or-death urgent  --- and there is every reason for dealers to pursue these as both safety and marketing issues. This tragedy should  have been prevented with more aggressive customer contact such as calls and texts.Why wasn't the new owner's cell phone number sent a text ? Yes --- they tried to reach him - but could  have  - should have - tried harder.  "Use multiple communications channels."

This makes me mad that "so-called digital marketing experts" failed to reach such a high-priority customer and anytime lives are lost due to incompetence and negligence they should be fired from the dealer level to the manufacturer. The weak attempts are "too little too late". Liability will still be found - and if this event is not enough to prevent it from ever happening again - someone needs to go after everyone that isn't taking this as serious as it is and remove them immediately. How can they live with their criminally deadly ineptitude ?  Someone chose to not make the best effort possible.        

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