American Cars In Decline? GM’s Role In The International Recall War

General Motors has had a tough year.

With roughly 10 million vehicles being recalled for everything from wiring problems to faulty ignition switches, many are reporting that the automaker’s actions have set it on track to help break American automaker’s record of 30.8 million recalls in a single year, which was in 2004.  This recent concern over the massive number of recalls from the American automotive industry might leave some wondering if that leaves this country’s automotive brand in jeopardy; and if it impacts the reputation of American cars internationally-with a decline in sales to follow.

In early 2014, GM recalled 2.6 million automobiles because of faulty ignition switches that caused vehicles to switch off while they were still being driven, possibly leading directly to 13 deaths.  Subsequently, in May 2014, GM recalled another 2.7 million cars because of headlamp problems, brake issues, and tie-rod defects. 

GM’s recalls come at a disconcerting time when two other American automotive giants, Ford and Chrysler, also issued mass recalls in 2014 for more than 1.5 million vehicles as well.

Internationally, Japanese and German automakers have not been recall-free either, but have had far less safety defects.  In May 2014, Toyota issued a recall of almost 6.4 million cars worldwide because of airbag deployment issues as well as seats that could move in a crash.  Nissan also recalled around 1 million vehicles for airbag problems, and Honda recalled 900,000 minivans in the same year.

German brands Volkswagen, Daimler AG (makers of Mercedes-Benz), and BMW have fared much better with a total of only about 466,000 recalls combined.

These numbers show that America has international automakers beat in terms of car recalls, possibly causing many to see the American automotive brand as damaged.  The number of recalls from international car makers barely comes close to the number of recalls from GM alone, again, damaging the trust in American automotive brands and drawing attention to the safety of American vehicles.

In an effort to rectify some of these criticisms of GM’s safety defects, the VP of GM Global Vehicle Safety, Jeff Boyer, issued this statement, “We have redoubled our efforts to expedite and resolve current reviews in process and also have identified and analyzed recent vehicle issues which require action. These are examples of our focus to surface issues quickly and promptly take necessary actions in the best interest of our customers.

GM seems hopeful, for now, that these efforts will circumvent any decline in sales. But the damage has already been done, and with less than half of 2014 over, more recalls are still likely to come.

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