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Car Recalls in 2014 Close to Record Pace

With federal regulators holding the steering wheel, auto manufacturers are on course to set a U.S. record this year forrecalling vehicles with defects that could cause life-threatening crashes.

Toyota recently recalled about 1.8 million vehicles in the U.S. to repair problems such as air bags that won’t activate in wrecks. The recall affects 6.4 million cars and trucks around the world. That comes on top of General Motors’ recall of 2.6 million small cars to repair faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths.

All told, the auto industry has recalled 9 million vehicles in the U.S. so far this year, putting it on pace to pass a recall record of 30.8 million vehicles 10 years ago, according to the Associated Press.

The Justice Department has criticized Toyota for hiding the problem involving unintended acceleration in vehicles dating back to 2009. Toyota paid $1.2 billion as part of a settlement with the federal government. But if it fails to meet all terms of the agreement, the feds could revive a wire fraud charge against the company.

Meanwhile, GM faces allegations that it covered up defects in ignition switches on small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt for more than 10 years. GM CEO Mary Barra recently testified before a congressional committee but said she didn’t know why it took the company so long to recall vehicles.

The defective ignition switch can cut off while a car is moving, causing the driver to lose control and crash.

NBC News has reported that the company in 2001 rejected a design for ignition switches that would have avoided the defect. The company’s decision was based on cost, some advocates say.

The company, one of the most important in Michigan, now faces numerous civil lawsuits from consumers and a number of government investigations over the defective ignition switch.

Only when auto manufacturers take quick action to go public with parts problems and efficiently handle recalls will they emerge from under the shadow that is darkening the industry and endangering the motoring public.

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