Vehicle Recalls Are Skyrocketing to Record Levels This Year

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It’s been a rough year for the auto industry. If it seems like the recalls have been rolling in at a higher volume than usual, you’re not wrong. 2014 has seen more vehicles affected by recalls than any other year in history, and we’re not even through September yet.

At least that’s the conclusion one FiveThirtyEight reporter came to when he crunched the numbers. By his calculations, a total of 41.2 million vehicles will be affected during 2014, counting across all recalls. Of course, this takes a number of recalls over the years into account, but with the millions of vehicles that have been called back this year alone, the number has been inflated even further. FiveThirtyEight notes that Chevrolet alone has contributed more than 10 million vehicles to the tally this year, and Honda added another 3.9 million.

Even with all the product recalls we’ve seen this year, they keep coming in. General Motors just a few days ago recalled more than 221,000 Chevy Impalas and Cadillac models due to a brake defect. According to The New York Times, the brakes have the potential to overheat and start a fire.

Not to be outdone, Chrysler issued a giant recall of its own soon after, affecting 230,760 SUVs from the company’s Dodge and Jeep brands after it was found that faulty fuel pumps could cause the vehicle to stall or fail to start up correctly. Thankfully, Reuters reports that no known injuries have been reported as a result.

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The luxury segment hasn’t been spared, either: Ferrari even recalled a few thousand of its 458 Italia sports cars after it was discovered that people could potentially be locked in the trunk with no way to escape. It seems that no manufacturer has been immune to the onslaught of recalls, but it does bring up some questions. Chief among them: What the hell is going on with the auto industry?

That question likely doesn’t have an easy answer, although there is plenty of room to speculate. What could ultimately cause so many recalls to take place within a relative short amount of time? There are a few places to look for answers, and we can start with regulations.

Has a recent rule change been enacted or have manufacturers been stuck with stricter regulations regarding the safety of their vehicles over the past few years, leading to more recalled models? With the exception of higher fuel economy goals, it doesn’t appear so. Vehicles have become increasingly safer over the past decade due to technological advancement, and manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to compete in the safety ratings. It doesn’t appear that regulatory efforts have been a direct cause of the widespread recalls.

There is the chance that some of those technologies that are seeing widespread application are failing. To get to the bottom of the issue, though, would require a few more years of study, as well as empirical data on which to garner a conclusive answer.

One reason could be that many companies are simply cutting corners. Not to say that manufacturers don’t care about their products or the safety of their customers, but the industry is as cutthroat as it gets, and any chance to get ahead is likely analyzed carefully.

For example, General Motors’ huge recall earlier this year regarding its faulty ignitions was a result of inaction on the company’s part. Executives knew the problem existed but failed to do anything about it, as action would’ve required investing in repairing the issue. They didn’t, and now they’re paying for it.

Of course, that’s not to say that Ferrari tried to cut corners on its trunk locking mechanisms, but neglect on the part of certain manufacturers has certainly added a lot of vehicles to the tally.

While there likely isn’t a simple answer, one sure thing is that as a whole, the industry needs to tighten up its efforts. The auto industry is facing enough threats from ride sharing, self-driving vehicles, and other things that scaring the customer base away will only create more problems.

Though it may require some investment on the part of the manufacturers, fixing the recall issues should be on the top of the priorities list for most, if not all, executive teams.

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