Record-Setting Auto Recalls In 2016
Automakers issued record recalls last year in the United States, as 53.2 million vehicles were recalled. This tops the previous all-time high of 51.1 million set in 2015. This is the third consecutive year that auto safety recalls have topped 50 million while surpassing the record set the previous year. In the two decades prior, annual U.S. auto recalls ranged from 10.2 million to 30.8 million.
The 2016 recalls took place through a record-setting 927 recall campaigns, a 7 percent increase from 2015.
In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was heavily scrutinized, as they failed to detect a deadly ignition switch detect in General Motor Company’s cars that were linked to 124 deaths. Since then, the agency has been pressuring automakers to recall more vehicles. They have also made efforts to hold automakers accountable, issuing record fines to companies who failed to follow safety rules.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to issue vehicle safety standards. They can also require manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet Federal safety standards. Although manufacturers often voluntarily initiate many of these recalls, most are a result of the NHTSA, with either influences investigations, or mandates them through court orders. If a safety defect is discovered, the manufacturer must notify the NHTSA, as well as vehicle or equipment owners, dealers, and distributors. The manufacturer is then required to fix the problem for vehicle owners, free of charge.
A recall is necessary when a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment does not comply with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, or when there is a safety-related defect discovered in the vehicle or equipment. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set minimum performance requirements for those parts of the vehicle that most affect its safe operation, such as brakes, tires, and lighting. Minimum performance requirements are also set for the parts of the vehicle that protect drivers and passengers in the event of a crash, such as air bags, safety belts, child restraints, and energy-absorbing steering columns. All vehicles and vehicle-related equipment manufactured or sold in the United States are required to meet the standards.
Traffic deaths have increased drastically over the past few years. They rose 8 percent in 2015, the highest annual increase in a half-century, and it is believed that they rose again in 2016. Traffic crashes are the primary cause of debilitating injuries in the United States, and the number one killer of Americans under the age of 34.
The National Safety Council estimates that 40,200 people died in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2016, a 6 percent rise from the year before. It will be the first time in nearly a decade that more than 40,000 people have died in motor vehicle accidents in a single year. The two-year increase of 14 percent between 2015 and 2016 is the largest in over 50 years.
Safety advocates contend that increase in deaths have been caused by, among other things, a reluctance by lawmakers to pass more restrictive measures.
Many of the 53.2 million vehicles recalled were due in part of a massive callback to replace Takata Corporation’s air bag inflators. The recall tripled in size over the past year.
Takata recently plead guilty to a felony charge after settling a $1 billion deal agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. The deal included compensation for automakers and victims of the company’s faulty airbag inflators. The faulty inflators have been attributed to at least 16 deaths worldwide.
Vehicles made by 19 different automakers (including popular models such as Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Lexus, and Tesla) have been recalled in order to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both. It has been called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.” The airbags were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015. The airbags deploy explosively, injuring or killing those occupying the vehicle.
The problem exists in the airbag’s inflator, which ignites with explosive force. The inflator contains a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers. If the inflator housing ruptures, metal shards from the airbag can be sent flying throughout the vehicle. Airbags, meant to be a life-saving device, are instead turned into a deadly device. The airbags can also explode with humid and hot temperatures, and when they begin to age. It is recommended the corrective work be performed as soon as possible.