More Recalls Under A More Watchful Eye Is The “New Normal” For Auto Regulators

Back in January, newly appointed chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mark Rosekind predicted that 2015 could see even more recalls than the recallapalooza that was 2014.While, the 32.4 million cars recalled in the first eight months of the year still pales in comparison to the more than 63 million called back last year, Rosekind wasn’t completely off on his forecast – namely that the agency would take a less forgiving approach to possible safety defects.

The Detroit News reports that though the millions of vehicles recalled this year might not top last year’s record-setting safety initiatives, it has already topped the previous record of 30.8 million vehicles recalled in all of 2004.

The new pattern of increased recalls over the past year and a half is simply the “new normal” for regulators, who have increasingly trained a watchful eye on safety defects.

NHTSA has taken several automakers and parts suppliers to task this year, with unusual hearings, record-setting fines and pressure to recall vehicles.

After continued pressure from the regulatory agency, Japanese auto parts maker Takata officially recalled 33.8 million vehicles in May – many of which had previously been recalled by U.S. auto manufacturers.

Just last week, Volkswagen reported in notices related to its latest recall for airbag non-deployment, that NHTSA demanded it call back the vehicles despite the fact the car maker had determined it wasn’t a safety issue.

Sean Kane, president of auto safety group Safety Research and Strategies, tells the Detroit News that the more aggressive stance from NHTSA has encouraged automakers to move more quickly when it comes to investigating and initiating recalls.

“There is a new normal,” Kane said. “Manufacturers are becoming much more diligent about fixing things that they would have been able to get away with doing customer satisfaction or dealer bulletins that NHTSA would have accepted in the past. Today, no one’s even going to cut these corners.”

In fact, some companies have created their own departments to tackle safety issues. Fiat Chrysler, which has recalled the most vehicles in 2015, hired additional personnel and created new positions dedicated to recall campaign execution.

“We have also taken steps to improve our parts procurement,” the company said.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the Detroit News last month that NHTSA would continue to take an aggressive approach to getting unsafe vehicles off the roads, despite advances in technology and autonomous cars.

“NHTSA is going to have to keep up… We have the Jetsons coming into us and we have Flintstones resources,” Foxx said.

Still, the agency will have to overcome some of its own issues, and a declining budget.

Earlier this year, a report from the Inspector General placed much of the blame for the General Motors ignition switch defect that killed 124 on the agency’s failures.

More stringent auto recalls for 2015 are ‘new normal’ [The Detroit News]

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