That's the question USA TODAY's James Healey is asking. He wonders whether the barrage of automotive recalls could be turning the safety notices into mere background noise ignored by car owners.
“If every recall is publicly covered, it is no longer an unusual event. The public will pay no attention,” says George Hoffer, transportation economist at the University of Richmond, who has studied the auto industry for more than 40 years.
Do you agree? Have you stopped paying attention to recalls?
General Motors started the avalanche on Feb. 7, when it said it had to fix a fatally flawed ignition switch on some small cars. That was quickly expanded twice and is at 2.6 million cars worldwide. GM has already announced 38 recalls this year covering 14.4 million vehicles.
At that rate, this year GM alone will far exceed the past decade's annual auto indusrtry average of 21 cars and light trucks, USA TODAY says.
"The American consumer, since the recession, is getting pretty used to hearing bad news," says Greg Smith, chief creative officer at VIA Agency, a marketing and advertising firm. "With the seemingly never-ending GM recall, perhaps we are becoming desensitized to one more story of bad news."
Other automakers meanwhile have announced 47 recalls so far this year, covering 8.5 million U.S. vehicles. Despite the negative news, multiple studies show that recalls have little or no effect on the value of the recalled cars, nor on sales by that manufacturer.
Experts say the complacency also spills over to owners who may not bother to take their car in for the needed repairs.