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High-Profile Recalls Are Now Less The Exception And More The Rule

Looking back over the past two years, it seems as though massive automobile recalls based around often fatal defects are growing more and more common. Each of the major automakers is taking a turn, and in most cases it seems as though they were aware of the problem and chose not to report it in time to prevent several fatalities. What’s more, each recall scandal seems bound and determined to top the ones that came before it.

In many cases the recall efforts are still ongoing, and so it may be a good idea to take a look back and take stock of all the major automaker scandals of 2014-15.

Takata Airbags

Technically, the recall of airbags which spew metal fragments like a grenade began in 2013, but it’s slowly expanded over the years as Takata, automakers, and regulators have discovered new, related defects in other makes, models, and years. Currently, the number of recalled vehicles stands at around 32 million vehicles across 18 separate brands, and of those only around 22.5 percent have been fixed. Even then, many of those fixes were to simply replace old, corroded parts with new parts which still carry the same defects.

Meanwhile, the number of victims continues to rise. In June, the number of fatalities rose to 8 and injuries are up to 98, stark evidence that the rate of replacement needs to step up. Given the sheer size of the recall, however, it’s understandably hard to expect Takata to keep up with the sudden burst in demand.

General Motors Ignition Switches

In February 2014, GM finally issued a formal recall for an ignition switch malfunction which it has admitted it knew about for a full decade prior. This malfunction can cause the ignition switch to randomly shut off, something which also shuts off power steering, power brakes, and even the airbags. The issue has been linked to 124 deaths across the United States (and likely caused many more), and although the recall started at around 800,000, it eventually expanded to 30 million.

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s General Poor Conduct

Back in June of 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration levied a record-breaking $105 million fine against FCA for its general failures in reporting known defects and the injuries and fatalities which resulted from these defects. These defects include a chassis design which put the gas tank so far back that it could ignite from a rear-end collision and Takata airbags which the company knew were unsafe.

In addition to millions of recalls, Chrysler must also buy back some 300,000 models, the largest such program in US history.

Volkswagen Diesel Deceivers

Outdoing them all, VW recently admitted that it had used a software program to deceive regulators and drivers alike into thinking that their new diesel offerings were high in performance and low in emissions, but in fact they can only do one at a time. The scandal is still unfolding, but the worldwide recall currently affects 11 million cars.

VW has also set aside over $7 billion to pay for the fallout of this discovery, but most analysts believe this to be an extremely conservative estimate. While diesel personal cars are a fairly niche market in the United States, they are considerably more popular in Europe and the worst of the coming storm will likely strike them there.

Over the past few years, we’ve gone from cover-ups of unfortunate defects to cultures of willful ignorance, and now we’re seeing an active conspiracy to deceive and defraud the public. With the way things are going, one has to hesitate before asking, “So what’s coming next?”