Automakers recalled more than 16.2 million vehicles in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The majority of recalls come in response to consumer complaints. A defect that could affect thousands of vehicles may cause one car accident, then another, then another. Consumers report these problems and, eventually, the problem grows serious enough for automakers to submit to the expense and potentially reputation-damaging step of a recall.
The head of the NHTSA referred to consumers as the “lifeblood of the recall process.” Government investigations are generally begun because a critical mass of consumer complaints has drawn attention to an issue. The NHTSA received a total of 41,912 complaints from consumers last year regarding potential safety defects in motor vehicles. That number is actually down from 2011 and significantly down from the 65,765 complaints in 2010 which led to more than 20 million recalled vehicles.
Consumers may not be aware of the pivotal role they play in ensuring that products are safe and effective for their intended use. Manufacturers and retailers do not recall products lightly. Until the potential damage from consumer lawsuits and complaints outweighs the costs of the recall, most will refuse to act. If you are injured by a product or notice a potential safety hazard caused by a defective product, it is important to speak up and draw attention to the problem. The companies that make and sell dangerous products must be held accountable for any damage caused by a defective product.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “NHTSA: Automakers recalled 16.2 million vehicles last year,” by Brian Thevenot, 17 January 2013