Record Number of Vehicles Recalled in 2015
2014 was a pretty rocky year for the auto industry. First, there was General Motors’ massive recall of over 30 million cars worldwide because of faulty ignition switches that were linked to 124 deaths. Later, millions of cars made by several of the world’s largest automakers, including Honda, General Motors, BMW, Dodge, and Ford, had to be recalled in the United States because they were equipped with Takata airbag inflators that had the potential to cause airbags to deploy with explosive force.
Despite all those big, high-profile recalls that happened in 2014, the total number of defective vehicles recalled in 2015 actually slightly surpassed the total for 2014, setting a new record. In 2015, 51.26 million vehicles were recalled while 50.99 million were recalled in 2014. The figure for 2014 was actually initially 64 million, but it was adjusted to 50.99 million due to errors in how the Takata airbag recalls were being counted.
At the beginning of 2015, NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind announced that he was hoping to encourage automakers to be more proactive about recalling vehicles with defective parts and he was certainly successful in that. He even went as far as to predict that 2015 would be a bigger year for recalls than 2014 was and he was right. In 2015, there were nearly 900 separate automotive recalls while there were 803 separate recalls in 2014.
The increase in recalls is attributed to, at least in part, the intense scrutiny companies like General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, and Takata faced in 2015. Automakers have been stepping up the recalls to avoid meeting that kind of scandal. In July 2015, Fiat Chrysler was hit with a $105 million fine from the NHTSA for their pattern of repeatedly mishandling recalls by failing to notify consumers of recalls, failing to make repairs available, and for failing to make repairs available that adequately addressed the problem. Later in 2015, the NHTSA imposed $200 million of fines against Takata over their defective airbags and General Motors agreed to pay $900 million to settle an investigation into their faulty ignition switches.
Ideally, Rosekind would like to require automakers to have a 100% completion rate on recalls, but that may be impossible due to the fact that many older cars that get recalled are no longer being used, so they don’t get repaired. But the closer they can get to that number, the better.
Many car owners also simply ignore the recall notices they receive and continue driving unsafe vehicles. The average recall repair rate after 18 months is only about 75%. Rosekind hopes to boost this number through a new yearlong ad campaign to educate people about how to find out if their car has been recalled and to encourage people to have their cars repaired. The NHTSA is also looking into using text messaging, email, and social media, in addition to mailing notices, as a way to alert car owners when their car has been recalled.