2014: The Year of the Auto Recall
Everywhere you turned in 2014, you were faced with another auto-related recall. The future for recalls looks bleak as well, especially considering the amount of time automakers and federal regulators take to react to reports of serious injury or death. The New York Times recently did an insightful overview of the issue in its piece, Fatal Flaws: Crisis in Auto Safety.
But why so many simultaneous recalls? Safety experts say that years of mismanagement by manufacturers, as well as the agencies that are supposed to regulate them, have been piling up. Fortunately, the search for justice has reaped some benefits, as seen in an updated report from Take Justice Back and the American Association of Justice. But issues with many auto-part recalls remain unsolved ...
GM Ignition Switch
The repeated failure of GM’s Ignition Switch led to 13 deaths before finally resulting in 39 million recalls. The cost of this fix for GM? $1 per car. GM's failure at oversight sparked an internal investigation, a $35 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), multiple congressional investigations, and the creation of a victim’s fund, which attempts to put a dollar value on those lost. Many families continue their battle against GM for hiding its neglect.
Takata - a Japanese airbag supplier - provides airbags to 10 automotive manufacturers, over 10 million US vehicles, and over 20 million vehicles worldwide. Upon inflation, its defective airbags were exploding and shooting plastic and metal shrapnel at drivers. Five people have died and 130 have been injured by unsuitable Takata airbags so far. See Car and Driver Magazine’s list of affected vehicles for more information.
Trinity Industries was found by a Texas jury to be deceiving the government - the company failed to reveal a design change to the end terminal of its road-side guardrails. This guardrail reconstruction lead to impaled vehicles because these guardrails can malfunction when hit by the front end of a vehicle. ABC News 20/20 did an investigation, which concluded that “rather than ribboning out and absorbing the impact as designed, the guardrails ‘locked up’ and speared straight through the cars, severing the motorists’ limbs in some cases.”
Ford Off Switch
A design flaw in many Ford vehicles has led some drivers to press the ignition switch rather than the radio touch-screen button. This brings the car to an immediate halt, which can inevitably lead to many safety issues. Thirteen-thousand vehicles with this convoluted design have been recalled, as Ford has acknowledged the potential hazard this presents. Thankfully, no known injuries or deaths have resulted from this mishap just yet.
How do I know if my car has been recalled?
- NHTSA’s online tool - helps decipher if you may be in danger behind the wheel.
- SaferCar.gov - a great resource for information on the latest recalls, more detailed recall information, and general safety updates.