Regardless of the make, model, or manufacturer, Americans are well-versed with the recall process when it comes to their cars. Recalling a car due to faulty internal parts is a practice that has been around for a while, and it ensures that auto manufacturers take responsibility for their products and keep their customers as safe as possible.
But as Washington Post contributor Drew Harwell notes, 2014 has been a particularly rough year for vehicle recalls. General Motors is notorious at this point for their continued recalls (most of which weren’t serious, but were likely exacerbated by GM’s general collapse during the Recession), and Toyota is no stranger to major lawsuits involving faulty car systems.
On October 22, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a consumer advisory that about 7.8 million cars, currently on the road, have faulty airbags which could “blast out metal shards” upon deployment. The airbags were made by Japanese parts manufacturer Takata, and they were placed in certain cars produced by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Mitsubishi, Suburu, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors.
The official NHTSA website provides a complete list of the affected cars, and it also notes that these faulty airbags have been responsible for causing serious injuries as far back as 18 months ago. The faulty cars were distributed in areas throughout seven U.S. states, four U.S territories, and Puerto Rico. The Post reports that the airbags have been linked to at least two deaths and dozens of additional non-fatal injuries.
These 7.8 million cars join 50 million others which have been affected by manufacturer recalls in 2014 alone. To put this in perspective: one in every five cars on American roads has been recalled so far in 2014, and the last time recalls numbered more than 30 million in one year was back in 2004.
It’s not surprising that consumers are furious, but it’s worth mentioning that car manufacturers are treading on eggshells as well. The NHTSA has noted that around one-third of all safety recalls — which are sent in the mail — are ignored by drivers, and when injuries occur from faulty parts, the manufacturers are still held responsible.
Ideally, there would be a more effective system in place to convey recall statuses and warnings. But an even better solution would be to address the problem right at its root and to ensure that the parts are safe to begin with.
“Recalls have been part of the auto industry since its beginning,” says Jim Hunt of Mac Auto Parts. “There will always be recalls, even though the auto companies do stringent testing of their vehicles, the chance for something to go unnoticed is still present. The auto makers are doing everything in their power to ensure these kinds of faulty parts do not make it onto the road as doing large recalls is extremely costly and do not benefit the company.”
One thing is clear: this obscene number of auto recalls must be addressed. The automotive industry has finally started reaching a healthy and stable place (after the industry-wide disaster caused by the Recession), but these millions of recalls threaten to destabilize the industry again.