Last year, shortly after his teenage grandson experienced repeated power steering failures while driving his red 2006 Chevrolet HHR, Edward Higgins of Melrose, Mass., searched for recalls. He was surprised to find, while searching online, that the vehicle had been recalled for that problem in 2010 in Canada, but not in the United States. Mr. Higgins discussed his frustration in an interview:
I was beyond mad. I can’t wrap my mind around it. I understand this isn’t a perfect world, but it’s one company. Whether it’s Canada or the U.S., it’s one car. Why would you recall it in one country and not another? It doesn’t make any sense.
This sort of thing happens all the time. A car manufacturer that distributes the same car all over the world may recall that car in another country, but fail to do so in the United States. For example, Toyota discovered a braking defect, Honda a power steering flaw and Nissan a problem that could lead drivers to lose control of their cars. Additionally, Ford found that wires in some cars could melt, General Motors said that some air bags might fail to deploy, and Chrysler confirmed that some of its Jeeps could burst into flames. These automakers discovered these problems years ago, reported them to regulators and conducted safety recalls – just not in the United States. Do you find that hard to comprehend?
The New York Times recently found that automobile companies conducted at least 33 safety actions in foreign countries that never fully led to American recalls. The defects involved such critical parts as air bags, brakes and steering and electrical systems – all defects that could lead to injuries and even death.
In one case, NHTSA opened an investigation into a power steering problem in Toyota models in November 2006, but closed it the following March, despite having found three crashes potentially tied to the problem and more than 100 related warranty claims. Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, finds the lack of urgency in the United States absurd. She stated:
If cars are unsafe in Canada, they’re unsafe here. It’s not believable that suddenly you cross a border into Maine and suddenly your car is safe.
We have no doubt that the automobile industry’s recall system will cause unnecessary injuries and deaths. Lawyers in our firm have successfully handled cases involving defective vehicles that have not been recalled. If you would like more information on this subject, contact our Product Liability Section Head, Cole Portis, or Stephanie Monplaisir, a lawyer in the Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@BeasleyAllen.com or Stephanie.Monplaisir@beasleyallen.com.
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