Consumer Reports: What Are Uber, Lyft Are Doing About Recalls?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
consumer reports what are uber lyft are doing about recalls

As ride-hailing services utilize the personal vehicles of contractors, rather than a commercial fleet of their own, repairs and recalls have to be handled by individual drivers. While it shouldn’t be a revelation that some recalls fall through the cracks, Consumer Reports is concerned that the ratio of unaddressed safety issues are unbecoming of companies pushing multibillion-dollar IPOs.

“Uber and Lyft are letting down their customers and jeopardizing their trust,” suggested William Wallace, products policy manager for Consumer Reports. “Uber’s website says people can ‘ride with confidence,’ while Lyft promises ‘peace of mind,’ yet both companies fail to ensure that rideshare cars are free from safety defects that could put passengers at risk.”

The consumer advocacy group conducted a study of 93,958 vehicles with safety records registered to operate with Lyft and/or Uber in the NYC and Seattle areas, uncovering that about 1 in 6 automobiles had unresolved defects. While fairly close to the national average for all vehicles, CR suggests it’s insufficient for a commercial operation and criticized the ride-haling firms for not doing enough.

Uber and Lyft permit vehicles on their platforms so long as they are legally registered within the state and no more than 15 years old, depending on where they operate. Local laws can force additional safety stipulations, though Consumer Reports believes that the 1 in 6 average could be representative of other regions, even if it doesn’t accurately reflect the national market.

From Consumer Reports:

We found vehicles with glaring issues that pose serious risks, such as deadly Takata airbags that could hurt or kill the driver or front-seat passengers. There were unfixed defects involving the potential for vehicles to catch fire or for engines to lose power entirely. For example, one [New York-based] 2011 Sonata’s open recall notices says, “Engine failure would result in a vehicle stall, increasing the risk of a crash.”

It’s unclear whether any ride-hail customer or driver has been injured because of an issue related to an open safety recall, and the rate of open recalls we found for registered ride-hail vehicles in our investigation is about the same rate estimated for all vehicles on the road. But as Uber and Lyft aim to transform daily transportation for consumers, they’ve taken only minor steps to ensure their drivers get recalls addressed, CR’s review found. And that could have unintended consequences for the riding public.

Representatives for the ride-hailing companies outlined a number initiatives already in place to encourage drivers to address recalls. Uber said it participates in the NHTSA’s biannual campaign to raise awareness about recalls and has the ability to notify drivers of issues as they crop up. “As part of our commitment, we’re proactively blocking vehicles with open recalls that include a ‘Do Not Drive’ notice from the manufacturer or NHTSA from the app until they have taken action on their vehicle,” an Uber spokesperson explained.

Lyft said it’s actively working with lawmakers and regulators to create rules and regulations around vehicle safety, but noted drivers working with the company should be in the habit of taking care of recalls for their own sake. “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,” the company said in a statement. “Drivers have a strong personal incentive to make sure their car is in a safe operating condition.”

Not good enough for Consumer Reports, however. The group and its supporters recommend stronger safety recall laws.

“Uber and Lyft have the ability to have zero recalled cars on their platforms at the push of a button,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “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.”

While true, both companies are hoping to manifest profit someday and kicking drivers off their platforms because of a failure to take care of recalls could hurt their bottom line. Making the service responsible for safety, rather than individual drivers, opens up a pandora’s box of liability. It isn’t something any ride-hailing firm wants to contend with if it doesn’t have to.

[Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock]

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3 of 14 comments
  • Indi500fan Indi500fan on May 21, 2019

    What is the risk factor on uncompleted recall items vs. that of third world drivers working 16 hours a day to make payments?

  • Sigivald Sigivald on May 22, 2019

    Consumer Reports has been dead to me for a long time. They're clickbait anymore.

    • Ravenuer Ravenuer on May 24, 2019

      So you're saying that all Lyft and Uber vehicles are all up to date on their recalls? How'd you come up with that anyway?

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.