Car Recalls Protect People like pressing car hazard warning button

What Does a Recall on a Car Mean to Automotive Engineers

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You hear it in the news almost every day: Volvo issues recall of 116,000 vehicles for front suspension issue, Honda recalls 440,000 cars for potentially defective airbags, GM recalls 8.4 million vehicles for ignition switch issue. And it’s not just the top level OEMs that are subject to recalls, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers can be impacted such as the recent Takata recall for airbag inflators that will cost the company over $445 million to correct and includes multiple car makes, brands and models. Recalls can be devastating for an automaker by negatively impacting profits and potentially be the cause of death for car drivers and passengers if a defective part is not corrected. This is why the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA)was founded to help protect consumers from design hazards that could cause injury or even death in the automobiles that they drive every day.

Highway Safety Act of 1970

The NHTSA was founded when the Highway Safety Act of 1970 was signed into law by the United States government with the goal of establishing the highest standards of safety possible for the roads that we drive on and the vehicles that we use every day. The administration works on all areas of safety including human risk factors such as drunk driving or seat belt use to child safety. Vehicle safety is one of the most important responsibilities of the NHTSA and they have established the Office of Vehicle Safety and Compliance (OVSC) to ensure that all vehicles on the road comply with all safety requirements.

Office of Vehicle Safety and Compliance

Too Much or Not Enough Regulation Gauge Measuring Rules Level for Protecting People like Car RecallsThe OVSC is responsible for conducting and maintaining test records for all automobiles that will be driven in the United States. Foreign vehicles that are imported are required to undergo testing as well to ensure that are safe for use within the United States road system. The US government has established basic guidelines that the OVSC tests to that are called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) which outlines a compliance program and the test requirements that vehicles undergo to demonstrate compliance. Testing is done by contracted, independent laboratories and must strictly adhere to the laboratory testing procedures.

What is a Recall on a Car?

When an issue is identified during testing that could impact safety or that does not conform to the Federal Safety Standard Requirements then a car recall is issued. When a recall is issued the automotive manufacturer or responsible supplier is required to notify all customers impacted by the recall and to provide a corrective fix to their vehicle at no cost to the customer. Recall notices are posted on the NHTSA site under Recalls & Defects and is updated as soon as test data is available or a recall is issued. When a recall is issued it will provide the report receipt date, number of vehicles that are impacted, details of the issue, what are the consequences of the issue and how the issue is resolved. The manufacturer then coordinates with its service departments to provide the necessary fix as well as managing any claims resulting from the safety failures.

The car recall system is in place to prevent catastrophic failures from entering the field by going through very rigorous testing. But there are instances when a vehicle fails in the field, sometimes causing serious injury or death and automotive engineers have to reconstruct the failure and determine if it is inherent in the design.

Automotive engineers do their best to design products that will perform well, meet all the industry requirements and above all are safe and will protect the occupants of the vehicle. When their best efforts are not enough the OVSC steps in to ensure vehicles are in compliance and to protect all drivers and passengers that will travel in that vehicle.

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