Last Thursday, May 15, General Motors (GM) announced another recall, bringing up the company’s domestic recall total to 11 million vehicles in 2014. GM recalled 2.7 million cars owing to safety problems that could affect brake light performance.
GM hasn’t been the only car manufacturer to do so, however. The industry as a whole has recalled around 20 million vehicles in 2014 so far. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s possible that this year will see a new recall record that breaks the one set set 10 years ago, when a total of 22 million vehicles were recalled in a single year.
The past year has seen a major shift within the auto industry as manufacturers learn that auto safety issues are becoming a national priority. This past Friday, the federal government made clear that a slow approach to recalls wasn’t going to work when it fined GM a record-breaking $35 million for its delays in recalling vehicles affected by its faulty ignition switches. The switch issue has been linked to 47 known crashes, and 13 reported deaths. Many people were appalled to learn that numerous GM employees had known about the defect for over a decade before the recall was initiated.
In the past, many companies took a more relaxed approach to addressing safety concerns. When GM first learned back in 2008, that several of its vehicles had issues that could lead to brake light failures, it issued a “Technical Service Bulletin” to dealerships to alert them rather than issuing a recall that would have cost them money. Today, companies are choosing to recall rather than risk a fine — hence GM’s recall of these vehicles years after they already took to the road.
So far, GM’s U.S. car sales don’t seem to be lagging — a fact that might surprise industry watchers. However, its current recall cycle is unprecedented in the company’s history. Even if the company’s perceived reputation doesn’t seem to affect the purchase decisions of current car buyers, the company will still have to deal with millions of dollars worth of litigation as those who have been affected by the recalls speak out.