|By Robert Duffer, Chicago Tribune|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Recalls have become as much a part of the automotive industry as engines. Recalls are up 4 percent from the previous decade while auto sales have decreased by 10 percent. Despite an unparalleled level of mechanical and electric sophistication in modern cars, we're buying fewer cars and holding onto them longer.
The U.S. is mired in another recall that has reached the highest levels of scrutiny. In March of 2014,
In 2013, more cars were recalled than were sold by nearly 45 percent. For 2014, the automotive industry is on pace to surpass the historic high of 30 million vehicles recalled in 2004. So far this year, GM has recalled over 6.3 million vehicles,
"The only thing worse than a big recall is a missed recall that causes injuries or fatalities and proves to be a fatal mistake," says
There have been three major recalls, marked by highly-publicized and horrific fatalities, that have defined the era of total recall in
In 2000, Firestone tire treads separated on the Ford Explorer SUV and caused it to roll over;
The current GM ignition-switch recall has totaled 2.6 million vehicles with ignition switches that unexpectedly turn off engines while driving, leaving airbags, power steering and power brakes inoperable.
119 deaths were attributed to the Ford-Firestone recall in the U.S.; 89 in
It's hard to pin down an exact number because reconstructing a fatal wreck to determine what worked and didn't work is an intricate and complex process complicated by the number of parts and the operational and circumstantial conditions.
Automakers are under as much scrutiny as the
As Acting NHTSA Administrator
The agency reviews more than 40,000 consumer complaints a year, which it codes by automotive part, make and model year. Based on these complaints, NHTSA will probe or investigate an automaker. These are categorized as "influenced" recalls.
"Uninfluenced" recalls are initiated by an automaker. If a defect has been found internally by an automaker and not reported to NHTSA within 5 days, they'll be subjected to steep fines. Automakers have paid more than
Uninfluenced recalls are part of NHTSA's strategy of encouraging good corporate governance and responsible vehicle safety.
68.2 percent of recalls were uninfluenced in 2013, and there have been more uninfluenced recalls than influenced recalls in all but one year since 2009, suggesting that the threat of fines are positively affecting the profit equation when it comes to recalls.