For years now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has authorized auto manufacturers to recall defective vehicles on a regional (rather than a national) basis. The idea, NHTSA maintains, is that some vehicle defects only matter regionally — say, in places that are cold or hot, for defects that supposedly are related to cold-weather or hot-weather events. Auto safety advocates say that's a bad idea for a host of reasons, including that (1) cars are mobile and move from hot to cold regions and vice versa and (2) the agency's policy sometimes has been administered irrationally. (For instance, one hot-weather-related recall did not include the county where Death Valley is located, which is the hottest county in the U.S. Go figure!)
Journalist Chris Jensen has just written this New York Times' piece on the issue. Here's an excerpt:
In July 2013, an angry and worried Connecticut owner of a 2007 Chevrolet Equinox wrote federal regulators to complain about a gasoline leak that a dealer refused to repair under a recall. The reason, General Motors argued, was that Connecticut did not get hot enough. The Equinox owner differed. “Several heat waves in Connecticut causing crack in fuel pump module,” the owner wrote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Not on recall list per G.M. However, should be for any safety issue such as this. Afraid to drive. Huge cost to fix.” Without any objection from federal safety regulators, G.M. had recalled only about 41,000 vehicles sold or registered in some states that have hot weather. That included the Equinox in Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas, where, the automaker said, a “state-by-state analysis” of warranty claims showed cracks in the fuel pump module were most likely to occur. For roughly three decades, regional recalls have frustrated automobile owners who have found it difficult to navigate the patchwork approach to fixing safety problems. … The recalls have also been a focus of consumer advocacy groups, which complain that they save automakers millions of dollars while running the risk that, in a mobile society, some dangerous vehicles will not be fixed.