It’s the Worst Year Ever for Auto Recalls. Why Are So Many Dangerous Cars Still on the Road?

by Drew Harwell, The Washington Post

It’s the worst year for auto recalls in U.S. history, with more than one in five cars and trucks at risk of sometimes critical, deadly defects. But the disjointed recall system patched together by automakers and regulators is leaving millions of broken vehicles still on the road.

Federal regulators on Wednesday urged the owners of 7.8 million Hondas, Toyotas, BMWs and other vehicles to “take immediate action” on a recall for malfunctioning airbags that blast out metal shards. The defect, tied to Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata, has been linked to at least two deaths and dozens of injuries.

Those faulty cars and trucks have joined 50 million others recalled nationwide so far this year, more than three times as many vehicles soldacross the country in 2013. But car companies say there’s a short supply of parts used to fix those defects, and safety regulators can’t even agree on how many vehicles have the dangerous flaws.

After landmark cases against General Motors and Toyota, automakers are running scared, and some are sounding the alarm over problems that may have once gone ignored. Safety advocates said that is laying bare the fundamental weaknesses of the broken recall system: neglected warnings, crucial delays and confusing messages that leave even attentive drivers at risk.

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