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How Do Automakers Detect Defectives and Initiate Recalls?

Posted in Car Accidents on December 3, 2015

When you get a notice from your car manufacturer or hear about another recall on the news, you probably just feel inconvenienced. Now you have to go to the shop and get a repair you didn’t even know you needed. Have you ever wondered how those recalls start? Did someone have a problem and complain or did the manufacturer find it?

When Do Manufacturers Issue Recalls?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to develop and enforce standards for vehicle safety to help ensure manufacturers find and correct defects before an accident or injury occurs. Manufacturers are required to recall a vehicle when parts in a vehicle don’t meet the requirements set forth in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and when they discover a defect that could threaten consumer safety. The federal standards ensure that parts, including brakes, airbags, and seatbelts, are created with quality and consumer protection in mind. It keeps companies from taking shortcuts and issuing vehicles with inconsistent, partial quality.

Safety defects, on the other hand, occur anytime a manufacturer realizes a vehicle component presents a real risk to consumer wellbeing. Anything that could cause harm, such as the Takata airbag recall, falls under the category of a safety defect.

How Manufacturers Find Out About Defects

Vehicles have a number of separate components, and manufacturers are responsible for adhering to industry standards. That does not always prevent the occurrence of defects, however. Finding defects and initiating recalls happens in a number of different ways, including thorough manufacturer quality assurance testing and consumer discovery:

  • Consumer reporting. Anyone who discovers a defect in a vehicle can contact the Vehicle Safety Hotline, which alerts the NHTSA to the problem via phone, at 1.888.327.4236 or online at safercar.gov. Consumer reports often launch investigations that uncover defects in parts. The NHTSA may not investigate an isolated defect occurrence, but they’ll look into problems that could affect multiple vehicles or parts installed in numerous vehicles.
  • Quality assurance testing. Each vehicle manufacturer has its own set of standards when it comes to maintaining compliance with federal standards and creating safe vehicles for sale. Manufacturers have an incentive to find and eradicate defects early on to prevent injury, lawsuits, and loss of consumer trust, so they often initiate recalls on their own.
  • Compliance testing. Federal regulators conduct routine testing to guarantee auto manufacturers maintain federal standards. In some cases, these tests uncover previously undetected defects that warrant a recall.

Discovered defects may only affect a small number of vehicles, causing a small recall. On the other hand, they could affect thousands of vehicles across many brands if the manufacturers use the same parts.

Consumer Responsibility

The automaker is required to send vehicle owners notice of any recalls that may affect their vehicles. Consumers can also go online to the automaker website or safercar.gov to input a VIN number and look up recalls. You can find your vehicle’s VIN number by looking into the windshield on the driver’s side of the vehicle from the outside. The vehicle may also have the number printed inside the driver’s side door where it latches.

Automakers should make every reasonable effort to get in touch with those a recall might affect. However, used vehicle sales and a lack of current customer information mean some vehicle owners may never discover the recall. Depending on the situation, a publicized recall isn’t enough to protect a vehicle manufacturer from a lawsuit.

If you can prove you didn’t know and couldn’t have reasonably known about the recall, any adverse effects you or a loved one suffered may offer grounds for a lawsuit. Contact the Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert for more information about recall cases in and around Dallas.