For automakers, 2014 was the year of the recall

The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. late last week expanded its recall of vehicles with defective and potentially deadly Takata manufactured airbags, which can explode and shoot metal shrapnel at drivers and passengers, to include the entire United States — a much broader geographic area than its original recall directed.

The decision was overdue. Pinpointing the recall strictly to areas of a particular humidity seemed foolish, since weather conditions change and vehicles are driven to different parts of the country, and was also asking for a public relations nightmare.

But the Takata recall as a whole — namely, the way it's been handled by FCA — shows the automotive industry still doesn't take safety as seriously as it needs to.

Chrysler has now recalled more than 3.3 million vehicles containing Takata airbags. But it took heavy nagging from the National Transportation and Highway Safety Administration to get Chrysler to expand its recall, despite the fact that these airbags in Honda vehicles are linked to the deaths of at least five people and dozens of injuries.

The company should have recalled all cars with the defective parts immediately. Though it was only several months ago the industry was dealing with General Motors' massive recall because of ignition key problems, Chrysler seems somewhat tone deaf to the very issues that landed GM on the chopping block with the public and Congress.

Chrysler's original airbag recall was too narrow. There's a good chance some of those defective cars, though registered in areas with low humidity like Michigan, might travel for prolonged periods of time to places with high humidity like Florida.

Such basic considerations should have been taken into account.

Further, Chrysler won't issue a real recall of passenger bags because there haven't been any deaths linked to them. It also stated their possibly defective parts "benefited from a more robust manufacturing process" than those in other companies' cars.

Safety issues have been too much at the forefront of the automotive industry in 2014. These companies must craft cars that are safe for people to drive and have been rigorously tested, and they must work with suppliers that take safety seriously.

There's almost no car company that has not had to issue major recalls. Just regarding the Takata airbags, 10 major automakers have had to recall more than 14.5 million vehicles since 2013.

To its credit, NHTSA has been on top of the Takata recalls, performing much differently than it did in its delayed response to GM's massive ignition switch recall.

Consumers deserve peace of mind when they get in their vehicles, and the Motor City should lead the way with the most robust safety measures.