2014: The Year of the Recall
As we reflect on the year that was in 2014 one industry dominated the headlines in the field of consumer safety and not for good reasons. The automotive industry recalled more vehicles in 2014 than in any other year. The New York Times reports that more than 60 million vehicles were recalled in the United States in 2014, more than twice the prior record year of 2004. There were about 700 recall announcements affecting the equivalent of one in five vehicles on the road today.
The year of the recall was highlighted by the massive General Motors ignition switch defect recall that has been linked to at least 42 deaths. Here is an informative timeline of how that defect was discovered and covered up before finally being exposed and officially recalled. A compensation fund was finally set up to compensate those affected by the defective condition.
The Takata exploding airbag crisis came on the heels of the G.M. ignition switch defect recall. As of November, 11 automakers had recalled more than 14 million vehicles because of rupture risks to airbags manufactured by component supplier Takata. We highlighted a New York Times article regarding secret tests conducted by Takata when it discovered and covered up the problem. At least 139 injury claims have been received regarding the airbag defect which can spew metal or chemicals into the occupant compartment upon deployment of the airbag.
The good that has come from all of this is that automakers may be realizing they need to promptly address known safety issues instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. Also it appears manufacturers are trying to go above and beyond the minimum required recall letter to notify affected owners. Given the number of affected vehicles the most important thing you can do is search the vehicles you own for any active recalls.