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Are more recalls a good sign for carmakers?

A former member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and now the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that in 2015 we could see even more recalls from the auto manufacturers, and that this will be a good sign. This comes on the heels of 2014, which set a record for the number of motor vehicle recalls.

This may be due to NHTSA become more aggressive in looking at the carmakers and of self-policing by the car companies, to avoid fines and the heightened negative publicity that accompanied both the General Motors ignition switch defect and the Takata airbag defect, which affected a large number of Honda models.

NHTSA has been the subject of much criticism during the last year from both Congress and the media for its slow response to these vehicle defects. The GM ignition switch defect has been linked to 42 deaths in car accidents, which occurred when the ignition turned off while the vehicle was in motion, in some cases, disabling the airbag.

The GM ignition defect had been seen in vehicle for 10 years, but neither GM nor NHTSA ordered a recall before last year. NHTSA had been responding to inquires about the defect with statements indicating they had insufficient evidence to even begin an investigation right up until the time GM initiated the recall.

Honda had been piecemeal recalling small numbers of vehicle that exhibited the signs of the defective Takata airbag for a decade before last fall when they finally ordered millions of vehicles recalled after recent fatal car accidents occurred with the airbag.

The administrator indicated that it is the car makers responsibility to notify NHTSA of defects and he is asking Congress to increase the amount a negligence manufacturer may be fined from the current $35 million to $300 million or more.

Reuters.com, “U.S. recalls may climb this year says car safety chief,” Patrick Rucker and Ben Klayman, January 6, 2015

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