Auto Recalls and Defects

Millions of Auto Recalls Spurred by Product Defects

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014 was a record year for auto recalls in the United States. The NHTSA reported that auto manufacturers recalled a record-setting 62.9 million vehicles in 2014 in over 800 recall announcements, more than doubling the all-time record set in 2004 with 30.8 million. This averages to about two recalls a day and affects about one in five vehicles on the road.

Major Safety Issues

This shockingly high number is largely due to two big safety scandals resulting in personal injuries. One, which is linked to at least 52 deaths, is General Motors’ recall of close to 27 million vehicles in the United States for ignition switch defects. The faulty ignition switch problem, which GM admitted first came up about a decade before they began recalling cars, prompted a reform of its recall system. During this time, GM also made dozens of other recalls with unrelated problems.

The other big auto recall involved exploding Takata airbags in Hondas and other cars which has caused at least six deaths in the U.S. and abroad. Since the incident occurred beyond the geographic areas of the limited recall, NHTSA called for a nationwide recall of the faulty ‪Takata‬ airbags in an attempt to further protect the lives of Americans on the road and hold manufacturers accountable.

Honda, which was most affected by the airbag problem, looks to have had the second-most recalls, but NHTSA has not yet broken down the data by automaker. Honda is the biggest customer of Takata, which made the faulty airbags, but other automakers including Nissan, Subaru, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, Mitsubishi and Mazda also had recalls related to the problem.

Role of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

In both of these recall cases, regulators are investigating why the cars weren’t recalled earlier even though the problems were known for years. According to the NHTSA, the reason for the record-breaking number of vehicles recalled last year is due to their investigations and enforcement efforts over the past three decades. “These figures demonstrate the need for vigorous, effective oversight to remove safety defects from our highways. NHTSA is committed to using every available tool in our drive to save lives and prevent crashes, and when defective vehicles or equipment put Americans’ safety at risk, NHTSA will act,” said NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind.

The government wants to triple NHTSA’s defect investigations budget and more than double the personnel. Rosekind wants two new safety divisions to help spot defects earlier. The agency came under harsh criticism from Congress and safety advocates for not discovering GM’s recall problems earlier.

NHTSA has taken a much more aggressive stance in recent months and wants Congress to boost the maximum delayed recall fine to $300 million up from the current $35 million and get sweeping authority to get unsafe vehicles off the road faster.

NHTSA also noted that in 2014 there were five child safety seat recalls covering 7.6 million seats, the highest number of recalled seats ever. All but 16,655 of those seats were recalled in NHTSA-influenced actions, making it a record year for NHTSA-prompted child safety seat recalls.

How to Search for Vehicle Recalls

Recalls can involve a number of defective product issues including faulty airbags, ignition switches, seat belts and potentially any vehicle part. Different types of vehicles may also be impacted such as SUVs, motorcycles and sedans. With so many makes and models involved in these recalls, it may be difficult to keep track of all the updates and know if your vehicle is affected. To find out if your vehicle is on a recall list, you can search a list of recalls by VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to see if your vehicle has a defective part or product. You can also learn more about NHTSA’s process for issuing a recall to better understand how you may report a problem and the investigative process.

If you have been in an accident caused by a defective car or vehicle, it’s important to determine if that defective product played a role in your accident. Multiple parties may be involved, including the car and/or auto parts manufacturers.