Why Are There So Many Auto Recalls?
Ever wonder why there are so many recalls on automobiles each year? While it might be frightening to hear about cars, trucks, or SUVs recalled due to a faulty component or an unanticipated problem, recalls are actually a good thing. Rather than downplay the problem, automakers are quick to jump on it. While there might be millions of recalls each year, they may prevent crashes, reduce repairs, and, ultimately, save lives.
Better safe than sorry
After three consecutive years of large increases in car recalls, it’s understandable for consumers to wonder if they need to worry. Although recall numbers are alarming, they’re an important statement about transparency from automakers.
For example, the majority of recalls are older vehicles — not new ones entering the market. This suggests that manufacturers continue to evaluate the wear and tear on vehicles and to stay abreast of pending failures or new, retroactive technologies.
From an automaker’s standpoint, there are numerous reasons to issue a recall. In many cases, ignoring a defect comes with significant liability: deaths, large company-wide financial losses (up to and including bankruptcy), and at times, even felony charges. It’s ultimately better for automotive companies to be safe, rather than sorry.
The TREAD Act promotes proactive solutions
The TREAD Act, passed in 2000, requires that carmakers proactively identify potential problems and immediately report them to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Prior to the enactment of the TREAD Act, carmakers were only required to react effectively when consumers reported a problem.
Although acting on every possible issue with older models may appear a costly endeavor, many automotive companies continue to lean on the side of reporting all possible defects — whether life threatening or not. The reason? While costly, it’s often less costly than the alternative. Congress doubled the maximum penalty the NHTSA can fine a company for not reporting a recall.
Recalls signal an ongoing commitment to safety
While watching the number of automotive recalls increase each year may feel alarming, it’s actually quite settling. Carmakers submit a majority of recalls, and those tend to be proactive. Aside from avoiding the NHTSA fine and the liability that can come with unreported defects, every automaker wants to maintain a sterling reputation for safety. Recalls and subsidized repairs to avoid recalls raise the safety standard for manufacturers and keep vehicles and their drivers safer.
As it relates to consumer safety, traffic deaths have dropped almost 25% over the past 10 years. While it’s uncertain how much of this decline comes from safer vehicles, it nevertheless shows that increased recalls are a commitment to safety.
Recalls are part of the industry
While it might seem like a blemish, recalls are a new norm in the automotive industry. They’re a commitment to ongoing safety and excellence that track one of the most used and abused consumer products out there. As vehicles continue to get more sophisticated, continuous recalls are here to stay. And, looking to the future, firmware updates are likely to join mechanical recalls as a form of continuous vehicle improvement.