When manufacturers release a new product, it should be thoroughly tested and ready for market. This is particularly true of automobiles. No other product used on such a mass scale poses a similar risk of physical harm. Within moments of purchase, and on a daily basis thereafter, we trust these products with our lives and the lives of everyone else on the road.
Car companies know this. In fact, they capitalize on the idea by making safety and reliability prominent themes in their advertising. It would be reasonable to assume, then, that recalled vehicles (i.e., vehicles so dangerous they must be pulled off the street and repaired) would be relatively rare. They are not. Calendar year 2016 saw a record-breaking increase in the number of vehicles recalled in the United States.
If you live in Orange County or anywhere else in Southern California, learning whether your vehicle is affected by a 2016 recall is easy. Manufacturers are required to mail recall notifications directly to your home address. You can also check NHTSA’s recall campaign database. And if neither of these options provides the answers you seek, you are welcome to contact Neale & Fhima for advice about a specific recall or new car defect.
Looking at the top 2016 recalls generally, there is an important lesson to be learned: car companies and auto part manufacturers make all sorts of mistakes. From ill-conceived designs to outright fraud, an entire spectrum of wrongdoing is reflected in last year’s recalls. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:
The Monostable Gear Shifter
- Type of defect/wrongdoing: Negligent design
- NHTSA campaign: 16V240000 (April 25, 2016)
- Vehicles affected: Jeep Grand Cherokee, 2014-2015; Chrysler 300, 2012-2014; Dodge Charger, 2012-2014
- Description: The design of the gear shift lever used in these vehicles is confusing and unintuitive. Drivers may exit the vehicle believing the transmission to be in park, when it is not, leading to rollaway accidents. The death of a Hollywood celebrity drew widespread attention to this defect.
Subaru Steering Columns
- Type of defect/wrongdoing: Negligent manufacturing
- NHTSA campaign: 16V292000 (May 11, 2016)
- Vehicles affected: Subaru Legacy, 2016-2017; Subaru Outback, 2015-2017
- Description: One of the shafts in the steering column of these vehicles was machined incorrectly, making sudden failure of the steering system possible. The danger is so acute that these vehicles are supposed to be taken out of use immediately and towed (not driven) to the dealership for repair.
Ford Door Latches
- Type of defect/wrongdoing: Faulty parts
- NHTSA campaign: 16V643000 (September 6, 2016)
- Vehicles affected: Various Ford and Lincoln models, 2012-2016
- Description: An internal component (called a “pawl spring tab”) in the side door latches of these vehicles is susceptible to fracture during ordinary use. The result is a door that may not close, or worse yet, a door that may swing open while the vehicle is in motion.
- Type of defect/wrongdoing: Improper materials
- NHTSA campaign: 16V078000 (February 10, 2016) and others (recall expanded in 2016)
- Vehicles affected: Various makes and models, 2000-2017
- Description: Airbags use a chemical reaction to create a small, controlled explosion that safely inflates the bag. The manufacturer of the airbags in this recall used an improper chemical – one that is known to deteriorate with time and burn unpredictably when activated.
VW Diesel Emission Software
- Type of defect/wrongdoing: Fraud
- NHTSA campaign: N/a (EPA settlement announced December, 2016)
- Vehicles affected: Various Volkswagen and Audi models, 2009-2016; Porsche Cayenne, 2014-2016
- Description: Selectable driving modes (sport, eco, comfort, etc.) are common on modern vehicles. They allow a driver to temporarily choose performance over fuel economy, for example. But the engineers of the vehicles in this recall created a secret “testing mode” that circumvented emissions laws.
If you were hurt in a traffic accident in Southern California involving a recalled vehicle, or if you purchased or leased a defective lemon car anywhere in the state, call Neale & Fhima at (888) 568-6983 or submit the contact form below.