2015 was the year of the auto recall. It was a year that witnessed so many car recalls, that it almost became the norm. But why and more just as importantly should we be concerned about more recalls to come? Actually, a number of factors have come together that explain why 2015 was the year of the recall. As to the worry—we’ll leave that to you for now.
General Motors Steps Up—After Federal Pressure
GM itself created one of the larger recalls of the last 12 months. Initially planning a routine recall of 800,000 Chevrolet Cobalts for a defective ignition switch, by the time the dust settled, GM had to recall a total of 2.6 million cars. But before we go applauding the auto manufacturing giant, consider this: GM knew that the defect had existed for at least a decade. And, just as damning, federal regulators admitted they had the data, but failed to evaluate it. GM went on to accept federal monitoring and a $900 million fine. To date, they have notified the owners of 27 million vehicles in 84 separate recalls. For perspective, that’s more than twice as many vehicles than GM manufactured worldwide in all of 2014.
More Government Oversight and Investigation by Consumer Watchdogs
Federal regulators such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been steadily increasing enforcement. Under new NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind, the auto industry has been scrutinized and policed more aggressively. It was under Rosekind that Fiat Chrysler was hit in July, 2015, with a $105 million fine and a command to buy back 200,000 Ram pickups and Dodge SUVs, because the fuel tanks are prone to fire in the event of a rear-end collision.
Consumer advocate groups such as the Institute for Highway Safety and the Center for Auto Safety have also been agitating for stronger safety standards. It’s worth noting that Volkswagen’s faked emissions tests were first uncovered by a private group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, not a governmental regulator. Research done by private groups is serving to pressure government bodies to step up enforcement.
Increased Reliance on Safety Tech Brings Risks
It’s ironic that the technology we rely on to keep us safe creates, at times, new hazards. Sometimes these new dangers are known as “unintended consequences.” But sometimes they are just technical mistakes.
Airbags are considered a great lifesaver—the statistics prove it is so. But the Takata airbag problems have become the largest recall in automotive history, with the bags killing 8 people and injuring over 100 more. Chemicals that degrade under certain conditions can cause the bags’ inflaters to misfire, propelling shrapnel all over the interior of the vehicle.
Many millions of cars have been recalled to replace their airbags, so that the bags can protect us safely once again.
2015: The Year of the Recall
Some of the largest automotive recalls in 2015 included:
- Takata airbags (at least 34 million vehicles)
- Volkswagen emissions scandal (at least 11 million vehicles)
- GM faulty ignition switch (at least 2.6 million vehicles)
- Toyota power window master switch problem, which could cause a fire (at least 2 million vehicles)
- GM lift-gate recall (at least 780,000 crossover SUVs)
- Toyota Prius/hybrid car software problem (at least 625,000 vehicles)
- Ford body control module fault (at least 432,000 vehicles).
If your car is recalled, have it fixed, by all means. If your car is recall-free, breathe a few words of thanks.
While recalls might feel distressing, in actuality the greater enforcement of safety standards is incredibly positive. Recalls make us and our cars safer. A greater number of recalls just might mean we are the safest we ever have been. As both private and public groups keep track of automotive problems, we should expect the trend of greater and greater numbers of recalls to continue.
About the Author:
Columbia, South Carolina personal injury attorney, Bert Louthian, has been practicing law with his father since 1985. A graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, Bert has represented many victims of personal injury, including those in lawsuits related to vehicle recalls. Bert is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.