Following on the heels of Toyota’s February 2014 recall of Lexus, RAV 4, and Tacoma vehicles due to software issues that could cause the vehicles to be unresponsive comes a new safety announcement by the car-maker. In early April, Toyota announced a massive, new recall of more than 6 million vehicles worldwide. It is estimated that approximately 2 million vehicles are impacted in North America with some dating back to model year 2004. The defective parts identified in the announcement are:
- Seat rails
- Steering column brackets
- Engine starters
- Airbag cables
- Windshield wiper motors
While some vehicles have a single defect, others are affected by multiple issues. For instance, the Toyota Highlander, Camry and Corolla are all impacted by faulty airbag spiral cables. However, the Yaris and Yaris sedan are impacted by not only the airbag spiral cable defect but also problems with the seat rails and steering bracket. Even vehicles beyond Toyota’s core brands are impacted by this recall. The GM Pontiac Vibe and Subaru Trezia are affected since they are manufactured by Toyota under a joint manufacturing agreement.
GM Admits it Acted Slowly on Ignition Switches; Announces New Recall
Last week GM was again in the news, this time as a recipient of a $35 million fine by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and to announce five more safety recalls impacting GM vehicles.
The fine was levied due to GM’s delays and lack of timely corrective action in the now infamous ignition switch recall. While a larger fine of $1.2 billion was levied by the Justice Department in response to criminal complaints against Toyota, the $35 million fine represented to most the NHTSA could impose against GM for a single violation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) characterized the fine as a “mockery of justice”. Plaintiff’s attorneys have generally considered this ruling as a victory for GM. However, in response to public outcry about the low amount of the fine, representing less than 1% of GM’s yearly profit, the NHTSA has petitioned Congress to increase its authority to levy a fine of up to $300 million for a single violation. GM may still face additional fines as a criminal investigation against the company continues.
Aside from the punitive action taken by government regulators, GM also announced 5 new safety recalls on May 15, 2014. These recalls include:
- Nearly 2 million vehicles’ wiring systems are susceptible to corrosion due to micro-vibrations in the vehicle. Overtime. The corrosion can lead to tail light and brake light malfunctions. 13 crashes and two injuries have been reported to GM, though more may exist.
- Over 100,000 Corvettes may lose low-beam headlamp functionality unexpectedly. While GM has acknowledged that it has received hundreds of complaints, it claims that no accidents or injuries have occurred due to this defect.
- Nearly 150,000 Chevrolets Malibu (2014), are susceptible to problems with the hydraulic braking system. At least four accidents have been attributed to the hydraulic braking problems.
- Almost 20,000 Cadillac CTS, model year 2013 and 2014, have windshield wipers that are likely to fail under some conditions. Gm admits the wiper failure can contribute to a crash due to unexpected loss of visibility, it claims that no accidents have been caused by this defect.
- Approximately five-hundred 2014 and 2015 full-size trucks have a tie-rod defect which can lead to a crash. GM states that this defect was uncovered with only a few vehicles being delivered to market. The issue has since been corrected though purchasers of GM trucks are encouraged to contact their dealership.
Together, these 5 new safety recalls add an additional 2.7 million vehicles to those recalled by GM in recent months. This brings the total number of GM vehicles affected by safety recalls since the February ignition switch announcement to approximated 13 million.
Tire Industry Fights Against Tire-Age Safety Regulations
Industry safety experts state that over time, the rubber that makes up a tire loses its elasticity. This loss of elasticity in the rubber can cause structural degradation of the tire and a potentially serious safety hazard. While some people argue for a balanced approach — taking into account tire age, use and storage – the industry group seems to deny that age has any impact on tires. This is in contrast to Ford, GM and Chrysler which urge motorists to replace tires after 6 years and Michelin who says that tires should be replaced after 10 years.
However, it can be difficult for consumers to ascertain the age of a tire because the tire industry does not use a typical dating format and instead relies on a week/year date code. To improve safety, Massachusetts and other states have attempted to aid consumers in determining a tire age. However, tire-industry lobbying groups have blocked this safety measures from being enacted into law. To defeat the Massachusetts law that would have recorded the age of tires during routine vehicle inspections, the rubber lobby spent $36,000.
Who is Standing Up for the Consumer?
In a world where the major car manufacturers like GM and Toyota seem to announce recalls of millions of vehicles every few weeks and industry trade groups actively work against the implementation of safety standards, one has to wonder who is looking out for consumer safety? While the NHTSA is certainly making their best attempt, it has been deemed “toothless” due to the caps placed on the fines it may levy. Even Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Fox, admits that the fines imposed on GM amount to little more than a “rounding error” to the company’s bottom-line. So, are the major auto manufacturers even listening?
For more than 34 years, The Reiff Law Firm have stood up for the rights of consumers when regulators have failed and the companies have put profit before safety. If you have been injured due to a vehicle defect, call a Delaware County car accident lawyer today at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.