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2014 saw record number of automobile design defect recalls

There have been a large number of automotive recalls of late. The number of automotive recalls in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2015 totaled 34.5 million vehicles. Except for the same time period in 2014, during which 49 million vehicles were recalled, the first seven months of 2015 had the highest number of recalls in fifty years. Recalls have been related to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, rupturing airbags and fire hazards.

The high number of recalls includes nearly 14 million vehicles being recalled by automakers for defective airbags. The recalls are part of a larger 32 million vehicle recall related to airbags manufactured by Takata Corporation that are prone to rupture. Takata acknowledged the problem to regulators. The defective airbags have allegedly led to more than 100 injuries and are blamed for eight deaths.

The government crackdown comes as regulators respond to criticism concerning safety lapses. A relaxed self-reporting system has been blamed for some of the problems, including defective ignition problems with one car maker that allegedly led to at least 120 deaths. A new era of increased oversight and power for regulators may be coming soon, including maximum penalties of $105 million.

One automaker recently reached a record $105 million settlement with regulators. The company will also be overseen by an independent monitor and has agreed to buy back some of the defective vehicles. The settlement related to nearly two dozen recalls and 11 million vehicles and related to allegations of misleading and obstructing regulators; inadequate and lagging repairs; and failing to provide timely notice to vehicle owners concerning recalls.

As most consumers rely on vehicles for daily transportation, the harm that can be caused by a defective auto part can be significant. Because of the serious nature of the harm associated with defective automotive products, victims of an auto defect should understand the multiple layers of legal protection designed to ensure their safety and help them when harmed.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Surge in U.S. Car Recalls Continues," Mike Spector, et al., Aug. 6, 2015

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