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

vehicle recalls are down in the u s but not everyones 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.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
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  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.