The department said the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System will be accessible to consumers for a fee through third-party Web sites. The system - called NMVTIS - is designed to help law enforcement and consumers to track a vehicle's brand history, odometer data and other background about a car to prevent fraud and keep stolen vehicles off the road.
The department said it has so far enlisted 27 states to provide vehicle titling, brand data, information as to whether the vehicle has been stolen or been in possession of scrap yards and other information. The states so far account for 73 percent of all vehicles in the U.S., it said.
However, several large states, including California and New York, still have not agreed to share the data with consumers. Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group that took part in a lawsuit to bring about the program, in a news conference applauded the new online system but urged the remaining states to begin disclosing vehicle data. Another group, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, also urged the states to comply.
"We're very disturbed to see that California in particular, with the largest car market and its salvaged vehicles on the road, is not participating," said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.
The department said it has lined up third-party commercial Web sites through which consumers can access NMVTIS data for a fee, but will not disclose them until Friday because it said it does not want to overwhelm their Web sites.
The ultimate goal of the program, the Department of Justice said, is to prevent stolen vehicles from re-entering roadways and being sold to fund criminal activity and to protect consumers from fraud.
The Department of Justice has spent more than $15 million on NMVTIS since it was established in 1997.