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Falling Short of Perfection

Relatively soon after Henry Ford began building automobiles ‘for the great multitude’ (the Model T went on sale in October 1908 for $950), the courts ruled automobile manufacturers were liable to persons injured by their defective automobiles.  These would be persons with whom the manufacturer did not have a direct contractual relationship but to whom they owed a duty of care even though the automobile was not inherently destructive, but rather had become so by reason of its imperfect construction.

The case most frequently cited for this legal breakthrough was MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., a 1916 decision by Justice Cardozo, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of New York who went on to become Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Today, statutory rules and regulations have created elaborate recall programs that take effect once a defect has been identified, and even before a solution has been devised and replacement parts made available.  

Legislation mandating standardization of safety features for all vehicles has also meant that a huge range of vehicles may be affected by the same defective part.

The Takata airbag recall is the most dramatic example of this—the largest recall in automotive history extending to 19 vehicle manufacturers, 42 million vehicles in the US, 5 million in Canada.  Such large recalls receive lots of publicity.  If the resolution is problematic and replacement parts in short supply, the story will pop up repeatedly, which generally motivates vehicle owners who think they might be affected to at least make inquiries.

Recently, however, we are hearing that with respect to the Takata recall, now that replacement parts are available, consumers are lagging in getting the repairs done, Transport Canada reporting, as of the end of January 2018 only 16% of affected vehicles have been repaired.  Thus, the Transport Canada website has ‘upped’ the urgency of its messaging writing as follows:

 “In Canada, vehicle manufacturers are responsible for carrying out notice of defect (recall) campaigns, … All vehicles currently affected by a recall or safety improvement campaign involving Takata airbag inflators are listed in Transport Canada’s motor vehicle recalls database…. Owners of the following vehicles should have them repaired immediately. Takata airbags on these vehicles may be at higher risk of failure than other recalled Takata airbags:

  • 2001-2002 Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Acura EL
  • 2002-2003 Acura TL
  • 2002 Honda CR-V, Honda Odyssey
  • 2002-2003 Acura TL
  • 2003 Acura CL, Honda Pilot
  • 2006 Ford Ranger (Ford Advises Do Not Drive), 2006 Mazda B-Series (Mazda Advises Do Not Drive)

You may decide to search the manufacturer’s lookup tool using your vehicle identification number (VIN) to confirm that the vehicle has an unaddressed recall and needs a repair.  If it does, immediately call your dealer to schedule a free repair.  It appears that replacement parts for these vehicles are available.

Transport Canada also notes that “vehicle owners are responsible not only for their own safety but for the safety of anyone who drives or rides in their vehicle, including future owners.” Road Rules urges its readership to always pay close attention to any recall notices that may affect their vehicles.

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