Why a Series of Recalls in 2014 is Just Not Enough
In a yearly overview, a New York Times article discovered that the auto industry issued the most recalls in history for automobiles made five years ago or more. According to the New York Times, over 60 million “have been recalled in the United States, double the previous annual record in 2004.” In 2014, there were a total of 700 recall announcements, which means an average of two per day - that means one in five vehicles were affected in the last year.
According to the Times, “G.M., Honda and Chrysler each [set] corporate records,” in recall releases. The auto-making industry’s decision to finally react to a buildup of errors has led to this influx of recalls. This makes for a frightening realization about the lax way the industry has historically been regulated.
These functionality flaws typically exist in auto parts that are used in many makes and models, which is what has primarily caused the sudden influx of recalls. The ignition switch issue in GM models, for example, affects models made between 2003-2011, and has been linked to over 40 deaths. In an effort to respond efficiently, GM issued “about 80 recalls covering more than 26 million vehicles, including 2.2 million small cars with the defective ignition switches.” Takata airbags, and the Ford off switch design flaw are more examples of defunct auto parts being used across a wide span of makes and models, once again resulting in multiple recalls.
GM, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda have taken reactive measures in their staffing and internal practices. Late to the party though they may be, at the very least this incessant series of recalls has forced automakers to rethink how they contribute to an industry that so directly affects most of the world. And yet, the small amount of time in which the industry has issued all the necessary recalls has not only sparked unease in consumers, but also induced much hassle.
The National Highway Traffic Association, who has been heavily criticized for it’s lackluster regulation of the auto industry, got about 80,000 consumer complaints about potential auto deficiencies in 2014, which is double the yearly average. Toyota is leading the way with attempts to reach consumers about recalls, utilizing not only written letters but also outsourcing companies to call customers. However, drivers cannot keep up - they get phone calls about one issue while they are still waiting on parts to arrive to solve another. Being told about potential hazards they are facing while they are unable to address any previous recalls stirs fear and anxiety. The heavy influx of recalls even has some consumers returning to their dealer only weeks after responding to a different recall.
While we should all be grateful that an under regulated industry is finally getting its act together, the sudden flash flood of recalls has turned many lives upside-down in its own way. Moving past 2014, higher expectations must now be set for the auto-industry, as our lives depend on its success.