On December 31, General Motors issued its final recall for 2014, which affected over 92,000 Cadillac, Chevy, and GMC vehicles. That recall pushed the total number of GM recalls for 2014 to 30.4 million vehicles.
The year started off quietly for GM, but in February, a major problem became public – the ignition switches on many GM vehicles were defective. The defective ignition switches caused cars to shut off while driving, which disabled air bags and resulted in deaths and serious injuries. Beginning in February, GM recalled 780,000 older cars to fix faulty ignition switches. Two weeks later, 588,000 more vehicles were recalled. The public learned that GM knew about the faulty switches as early as 2001, but did not issue a recall for 13 years, which allowed many deaths and serious injuries to occur.
Over the following months, a number of people were called to testify before Congress about the issue, including Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO. GM performed an intense internal investigation, and set up a system for consumers to file complaints against GM. The claims are still coming in. Last weekend, GM posted its final list of recalls for 2014. Of the 30.4 million vehicles that were recalled in 2014, almost 27 million of them were registered in the U.S and at least 42 deaths and 58 injuries have been linked to faulty ignition switches.
Although this huge amount of recalls from GM may seem to indicate that GM is a subpar automaker, other automakers also recalled high numbers of vehicles in 2014. The eight largest automakers all recalled more vehicles this year than they have on average since 1966. GM, Honda, and Chrysler each set corporate records for the number of recalls.
Many of these recalls are to clean up problems that have in the past gone undetected or were ignored. One big reason for the large number of recalls is that more common parts are used in multiple models of vehicles, so when a part is found to be defective, it can affect a huge number of vehicles. Another reason is that cars are more complex now than ever before, so there are more parts that could become defective which could cause a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned automakers that problem vehicles need to be identified and repaired quickly or the manufacturers will risk punishment.
It’s unfortunate that so many automakers will go out of their way to hide defects rather than identify them and repair them quickly. GM allegedly knew about the faulty ignition switches for 13 years, but allowed 42 deaths to occur rather than issue a recall that would have cost the company money. Several years ago, Toyota hid problems with its vehicles, which would result in the vehicle accelerating without the driver’s input. Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine, and has faced 400 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits, some of which are ongoing.
It can be shocking the lengths to which companies will go in order to avoid issuing recalls. Recalls are costly and damaging to a company’s reputation. Sadly, many companies will choose to quietly settle lawsuits in the hopes that the serious problems with their vehicles aren’t made public.
If you have been injured because of a problem with a defective product, you have the legal right to compensation for your injuries. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and possibly even punitive damages. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that companies must issue recalls as soon as they know there’s a problem with their products and if they fail to do so, that they must be held accountable for their wrongful actions.
If you have been injured by a defective product, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco product liability attorney at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients throughout the San Francisco Bay area, including Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy, Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. Call to schedule a free consultation.