Barring a last minute campaign from another manufacturer, Toyota will be number one in recalls on the American market for 2013. This will be the second year in a row that Toyota has topped the recall rankings. Since the 2009 sudden unintended acceleration controversy, Toyota has led the nation in recalls every year except 2011.
A recent overview published in the International Business Times highlights the recall problems of major OEMs globally, with a focus on the United States. Official NHTSA statistics for 2013 won’t be available until next month, but a rough count of major recalls places Toyota in the lead. In 2012, Toyota recalled 5.3 million cars for a variety of maladies. Honda was number two, with 3.3 million cars recalled. Lowlights in the recall race include Toyota’s 870,000 units with randomly deploying airbags due to spiders, Chrysler’s 280,000 units with potentially faulty rear axles and 2.7 million Jeeps for potential fire hazard, BMW’s 569,000 units that could randomly shed battery cables leading to stalling, and Honda’s 777,000 units with missing rivets leading to airbag malfunctions.
None of Toyota’s major recall campaigns in the United States in 2013 were related to unintended acceleration. Instead, airbags and seatbelts top the list of problematic components. Besides the aforementioned airbag issues in Camrys and Avalons, Toyota recalled over 750,000 Corollas and Matrixes for problems with electronic circuitry that could lead to random deployment of airbags or seatbelt pretensioners. 209,000 FJ Cruisers and 342,000 Tacomas were also recalled for seat-belt issues, as were 170,000 other units for faulty airbag inflators. In addition, 615,000 Sienna minivans were recalled for transmissions that can slip out of park without prior application of the brakes. Although no cars in the U.S. were recalled for SUA-related issues in 2013, Toyota just announced a recall of 400,000 units in Saudi Arabia to install brake override systems. That recall is meant to address concerns about possible unintended acceleration.
Toyota’s problems with airbags can be traced at least partially to the widespread reliance of multiple manufacturers on large suppliers. As the IBT article explains, Toyota’s recall for faulty air bag inflators is part of a widespread problem that has also affected Honda, Nissan, and Mazda. All of these companies used air bags manufactured by the Takata Corporation at its Mexican facility from 2000-2002. All of these companies have announced recalls to address the same problem. This illustrates the way in which component defects at the supplier level can spread widely throughout the industry. If headaches like this continue for OEM’s, one has to wonder if they might insource more production of critical safety systems. At the very least, it is likely that suppliers of these components will face tighter scrutiny in an effort to avoid costly recalls.