Spikes in Auto Recalls: Is the Auto Industry Growing More Cautious?

Automakers have recalled nearly 20 million vehicles in the past year, including some recalls involving marginal safety risks. The spike in recalls prompts industry observers to wonder if manufacturers have become more concerned with safety and auto design, whether they're under pressure from an energized federal watchdog or whether they're simply doing all they can to avoid the damaging publicity Toyota endured during its massive recalls late in 2009 and early this year.

In the first half of 2010, carmakers recalled 10.2 million vehicles, according to the Detroit News. That's about twice as many as were recalled in the first six months of last year. In the second half of 2009, recalls, led by Toyota and Ford, soared to 8.8 million cars, trucks and SUVs.

Toyota, especially, has felt the bite of the federal watchdog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since November of 2009, the Japanese auto giant has recalled 8.5 million vehicles over unintended acceleration and braking problems. The world's largest automaker was later fined a record $16.4 million for not recalling vehicles promptly enough.

Recent recalls show the auto industry still struggling with safety issues:

  • General Motors has recalled 2.9 million vehicles this year, including 1.3 million for defective windshield wipers.
  • Honda has recalled 1.1 million vehicles, including 383,000 to fix potential problems with ignition systems in Accords and Civics from the 2003 model year and Elements from the years 2003 and 2004. The locks can become so worn that they can lead to potentially dangerous vehicle roll-aways.
  • Chrysler has recalled 22,300 vehicles because an improperly formed part could allow brake fluid to leak.
  • Nissan has recalled 780,000 vehicles, including a small number of Armadas because of concerns with a rear seat that might lock and increase risks of injury in the event of a crash.
  • Ford had recalled 34,000 vehicles through the end of June after last year's massive recall of 4.5 million vehicles.
  • Kia Motors recalled about 35,000 Sorento and Soul vehicles to fix interior lighting wiring that could cause fires.
  • Mazda recalled 215,000 Mazda 3 and Mazda 5 cars because of steering problems that might lead to greater risks of crashes.

Making Safety a Higher Priority

A recent article in the Journal of Public Health Policy argues that the United States has fallen behind other countries in auto safety innovation because the federal government has not been aggressive enough in its pursuit of consumer safety. Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy are all imposing stricter safety standards to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.

Some members of Congress, apparently motivated by the intense public outcry in the wake of Toyota's massive recalls, have suggested giving the NHTSA more authority to move quicker on recalls, even when automakers are reluctant to cooperate. Congress may also give NHTSA power to impose significantly higher fines on vehicle manufacturers.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a motor vehicle crash, collision or accident due to a defective part or design, contact a Texas personal injury lawyer to evaluate the facts of the case. A personal injury attorney can help injury victims and families in wrongful death cases pursue full compensation for their losses.