The Year of Auto Recalls

By: Jerry Reynolds
November 03, 2014

Auto Recalls III know you are probably sick and tired of hearing about recalls. In spite of the news media trying to scare you with headlines of doom and gloom, many of you tune it out.

I call it recall apathy. I have had listeners say they will wait until they have three recalls on their car and get them all done at once. This is not something I recommend of course, these are, after all, safety recalls.

The most recent widespread recall involving Takata airbags is pretty telling. Either Takata, an auto manufacturer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or maybe all of them knew something. The fact that some of the recalled vehicles are 15 years old says a lot. The scary part is that the replacement parts for this recall are months away. Takata is even paying its competitors to help make airbags. I find it a bit scary that these parts suppliers are rushing to make a product that is as important as an airbag.

So how bad has it been this year with recalls? So far, there have been almost 550 different recalls affecting 52 million vehicles. That is almost 2 recalls per day including the weekends. One out of five vehicles on the road have been recalled this year. The previous worst year for recalls was 2004 with almost 31 million recalls.

General Motors alone has taken action on 70 recalls, but there is plenty of blame to spread around. The NHTSA totally fumbled the ball. They made an urgent plea to consumers to check their vehicle I.D. on their website. However, when people tried to do that, the site crashed and was down for days. One must wonder if it was the same people who designed the Affordable Care Act site, but I digress.

There are many theories on why there are so many recalls this year. Some suggest it is because of vehicle complexity, meaning all the new safety features and optional equipment on cars these days. I suppose that could play into it, but there are a couple of others reasons in my opinion.

First, I think some of the automakers are over-recalling cars because they are afraid of the bad publicity and frankly, the fines for not recalling cars are huge. The government has even talked about criminally prosecuting auto executives who try to hide recalls. That got the attention of automakers worldwide.

The next problem was caused by the automakers themselves. When the economic crash of 2008 hit and the industry plunged to 10 million sales from an average of 17 million, car companies cut every expense they possibly could. They squeezed every automotive supplier they did business with to reduce the cost of thousands of parts. This practice continues today, to the point that it is this writer’s opinion that quality has been sacrificed, thus record recalls. With rare exception, every recall involved parts purchased by an automaker from an automotive supplier.

The automaker system for buying parts is fundamentally flawed, much like the airlines do, the low bidder gets the business. Should that not be a worry to all of us? How about the company that makes the best parts gets the business? Seems too easy, but I believe in the long run, we would have safer and better cars, and the automakers would have more loyal consumers, but that’s just me.

Don’t get lost in this mess and forget that recalls need to be done as soon as possible. Call your dealer, most have a running list of people to call when the recalled parts arrive, which is sometimes months after a recall is announced. Bear in mind too, it is often the dealers hear about the recalls on TV or some other media before they know about it.


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