Auto Service World
News   August 10, 2023   by Adam Malik

Millions of unsafe vehicles on Canadian roads

While many aren't responding to recalls, there's also plenty of business the aftermarket could be taking advantage of

Image credit:

About 6.6 million vehicles deemed unsafe are on Canadian roads, according to the federal government.

The issues stem from unresolved safety recalls, says a report from The Canadian Press. A Transport Canada analysis from June, it noted, estimated that one in five of the 33.3 million vehicles registered as of 2019 have outstanding recalls. These vehicles continue to be driven on Canadian roads and highways, potentially putting occupants and other road users at risk.

New rules are being proposed by the department to require companies that issue safety recalls to post related information quickly on their website to boost awareness and fix defects.

The amended regulations would also see automakers have a lookup tool on their website for vehicle inspection numbers to provide info on recalls.

A small number of vehicle owners find out about recalls, said Ian Jack, vice president of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association. The issue is more prevalent if the car is second-hand with the new owner out of the reach of the dealership.

“Unfortunately in this country, if you want to know for sure whether there’s a recall issued on your vehicle, you have to pay attention yourself — especially in the case of a used vehicle, because the only name on record that the government would have or that the automaker would have is likely the initial purchaser,” he told CP.

Jack further noted that most recalls are for minor issues, meaning they’re not urgent or life-threatening.

“I don’t want to leave the impression that there are millions of vehicles driving around about to explode or kill people in the next five seconds,” he said.

Underperformed maintenance

Furthermore, there are many vehicle owners who are not performing needed maintenance on their vehicles.

It has been referred to as “a multi-billion-dollar prize out there,” by Brent Hesje, who served as AIA Canada chair in 2018. At the time, he noted AIA Canada estimated there was about $15 billion in maintenance and repair work outlined in owner manuals that consumers are ignoring.

This is money that could be flowing into the automotive aftermarket if drivers were more aware of the work needed to be done.

That puts the onus on the aftermarket to get the message out about consumers ensuring their vehicles are safe and roadworthy.

“The biggest driver of underperformed maintenance is a lack of consumer education on why a repair is required,” wrote Nason Higinbotham, general manager for B.C. & Yukon Stores at Fountain Tire, in the June 2022 issue of CARS. “We, the aftermarket, should be channelling our focus to educating our associates so they can, in turn, educate our customers.

The Automotive Industries Association of Canada and its members put vehicle safety are the top of its list of priorities, said Alana Baker, senior director of government relations with AIA Canada.

“We encourage governments who are responsible for road safety to look at the impact of vehicle maintenance and repairs,” she said in a statement to Auto Service World.

Baker and AIA Canada president J.F. Champagne both highlighted the importance of vehicle inspection programs to ensure safety.

“AIA Canada also supports Transport Canada’s proposed regulatory amendments that would require companies that issue a safety recall to also publish safety recall-related information on their website, in a timely manner, with the goal of increasing recall awareness and completion,” Baker said, adding that it’s “critical” for consumers to have access to data and information.

“This includes access to diagnostic data so that independent auto repair shops can effectively service vehicles and ensure they are operating as efficiently and safely as possible and allow consumers the right to repair their vehicle at the auto repair shop of their choice.”

Right to repair has been on the minds of many in the industry in recent weeks as three U.S.-based groups said they came together on an agreement that was swiftly slammed by all corners of the aftermarket.

While the issue was related to the U.S. with no implications on this side of the border, AIA Canada also shot down the pact.

“AIA Canada’s position remains that voluntary agreements like this do not work. Any attempt to achieve the desired outcome for the right to repair must be based on legislative measures, with strong enforcement mechanisms in place to hold players accountable and liable for any violations,” the group said in a separate statement to Auto Service World.

“While this new U.S. agreement admits that there is a problem with access to repair data, it falls short of addressing specific current challenges and accounting for future innovation. This unenforceable, voluntary pact between a small segment of the aftermarket is not the solution and undermines the consumer’s right to equitable access to vehicle data.

Print this page


2 Comments » for Millions of unsafe vehicles on Canadian roads
  1. Bob Ward says:

    Manufacturers should be made to fix safety related recalls in a timely manner or face fines. They are all to quick to take your money when you purchase a vehicle. Maybe we should legislate that vehicles under an outstanding recall should not be sold at all. Bi-annual inspections would go a long way to prevent unsafe vehicles from being driven.

  2. Frank Turcott says:

    Dealerships already can not sell a new vehicle if there are outstanding recalls per the manufactures own rules. As far as repairing safety issues in a timely manner well you should have worked in a dealership when the airbag recalls were on as there were just too many required and the supply chain was over-taxed. In the recall letters to the owners they where advised that they should use alternate transportation till the vehicle could be repaired.

    Remember the manufactures subcontract the parts manufacturing to outside vendors who can cut corners to make more profit.

    Yearly mandatory inspections are just bad optics at the voter booths otherwise BC would never have gotten rid of them in the early 80’s despite all techs saying they were badly needed. As a former CVSE inspector we questioned why the inspections were not brought back and the answer was “well right now we are focusing on the commercial vehicle sector”.

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *