Vehicle Recalls Are Down in the U.S., but Not Everyone's Celebrating

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
vehicle recalls are down in the u s but not everyone s celebrating

Automotive recalls in the United States dropped to the lowest level since 2013 last year. In 2017, domestic recalls fell to 30.7 million — far less than 2016’s record high of 53 million. That’s good news, right?

Probably. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demands manufacturers be Johnny-on-the-spot with fixes ever since General Motors’ ignition switch scandal back in 2014. That means it’s either gotten incredibly lax in its duties under Donald Trump’s watch or automakers simply had a better year. While the NHTSA suffered important staff shortages for literally all of 2017 and has seen the current administration pressing for less regulation overall, the recall decline could also be attributed to the Takata airbag inflator situation finally winding down.

However, it’s no secret that the Obama administration wanted to see the safety administration exercising its regulatory muscle. In 2016, automakers issued a record 924 recall campaigns. That number fell to 813 last year. The NHTSA has also neglected to impose new vehicle safety fines since Trump took office and been operating without permanent leadership for more than 13 months.

To some extent, this comes down to the Trump administration’s efforts to streamline the federal bureaucracy. But the confirmation process for presidential appointments can also be lengthy. The White House has repeatedly accused Democrats of dragging things out in response to so many nominees coming from the business world, rather than government. Regardless, many have become concerned with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s lack of activity.

“This agency is in a stall … They are not going to do very much without political leadership,” said Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator and prominent consumer advocate, said last fall.

That may be true, however the fact remains that Takata’s airbag recall ultimately affected 42 million U.S. vehicles — with the vast majority cropping up before 2017. It would be presumptuous to accuse the NHTSA’s lax enforcement year as the sole cause of the safety recall decline. However, it might also be unwise to assume it isn’t allowing automakers to fly a few defects under the radar.

[Source: Reuters]

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  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Mar 10, 2018

    Clickbait, with no facts, just speculation. Thank you, St. George, for bringing at least a few facts into the picture. As a quasi-native of the DC swamp, I'm pretty familiar with how this works. The political appointees set the policy direction for the agency, the career people carry it out. Since most career people at regulatory agencies are regulators at heart, in the absence of contrary directions from the top, they're gonna regulate. So, in the absence of new leadership at the top, it's pretty unlikely that the career folks at NHTSA have given up regulating.

    • See 2 previous
    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Mar 11, 2018

      @St.George St. George, All you need to do is look at other nations and assess their indicators against the US. Not hard. The auto industry is sort of global.

  • Brn Brn on Mar 11, 2018

    Recall rates dropping from all time highs doesn't necessarily mean enforcement is lacking. Recall rates started rising up in the 2007 era. If we're "the lowest since 2013", we're still higher than we used to be. Historically, 2013 was a very high year for recalls. Keep things in perspective. Recall rates are still very high and may simply be stabilizing.

  • Dusterdude @El scotto , I'm aware of the history, I have been in the "working world" for close to 40 years with many of them being in automotive. We have to look at situation in the "big picture". Did UAW make concessions in past ? - yes. Do they deserve an increase now ? -yes . Is their pay increase reasonable given their current compensation package ? Not at all ! By the way - are the automotive CEO's overpaid - definitely! (That is the case in many industries, and a separate topic). As the auto industry slowly but surely moves to EV's , the "big 3" will need to be producing top quality competitive vehicles or they will not survive.
  • Art_Vandelay “We skipped it because we didn’t think anyone would want to steal these things”-Hyundai
  • El scotto Huge lumbering SUV? Check. Unknown name soon to be made popular by Tiktok ilk? Check. Scads of these showing up in school drop-off lines? Check. The only real over/under is if these will have as much cachet as Land Rovers themselves? A bespoken item had to be new at one time. Bonus "accepted by the right kind of people" points if EBFlex or Tassos disapproves.
  • El scotto No, "brothers and sisters" are the core strength of the union. So you'll take less money and less benefits because "my company really needs helped out"? The UAW already did that with two-tier employees and concessions on their last contract.The Big 3 have never, ever locked out the UAW. The Big 3 have agreed to every collective bargaining agreement since WWII. Neither side will change.
  • El scotto Never mind that that F-1 is a bigger circus than EBFlex and Tassos shopping together for their new BDSM outfits and personal lubricants. Also, the F1 rumor mill churns more than EBFlex's mind choosing a new Sharpie to make his next "Free Candy" sign for his white Ram work van. GM will spend a year or two learning how things work in F1. By the third or fourth year GM will have a competitive "F-1 LS" engine. After they win a race or two Ferrari will protest to highest F-1 authorities. Something not mentioned: Will GM get tens of millions of dollars from F-1? Ferrari gets 30 million a year as a participation trophy.