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Auto industry 'celebrates' record number of recalls

Last year, the U.S. auto industry set a record it is probably not going to brag too much about. More than 60 million vehicles were recalled last year, more than twice the number that had ever been subject to recall in a single year.

Readers no doubt recall the major auto recall stories from 2014: Toyota’s series of recalls and $1.2 billion fine over sudden acceleration problems; Takata airbags deploying with too much force and injuring people with shrapnel; and GM’s recall over ignition switches that cause the vehicle to shut off without warning.

It would be natural to look back at the year and wonder if motor vehicles are more dangerous than ever. Interestingly, a story by National Public Radio contends the opposite is true.

NPR asked a couple of industry analysts what all the auto recalls last year meant to them. One of them argued that the fact that these major recalls actually means that safety standards are the highest they have ever been. He theorized that the fact these massive product defect problems were caught shows that there is a high level of scrutiny into vehicle safety.

Perhaps in years past, regulators would have been slower to recognize the danger to the public posed by a defective ignition switch or airbag. However, in the GM case at least, there is ample evidence that the company knew about the defect for years and refused to do anything about it, for financial reasons.

Consumers usually are not aware that a product they own and use is defective until it injures them or they learn that it has been recalled. Victims can suffer serious harm, which could require a long time and expensive medical care to heal. That is why victims have the legal right to seek compensation in court.

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