Don’t blame General Motors for the Year of the Recall.
At least not entirely.
Sure, GM started it. But like those predictable, out-of-control TV sitcom parties that begin by “just inviting a few friends over” when someone’s parents go out of town, it turns out that GM didn’t actually make most of the mess.
The finally tally of 2014’s damages came in from federal regulators Thursday, showing that automakers sent out 64 million recall notices in the U.S. That was more than double the previous calendar-year record of 30.8 million, set in 2004.
Of those 64 million, nearly 27 million came from GM. That’s a 3,466 percent increase from its recalls in 2013.
Put another way: In one year, GM recalled the equivalent of every single vehicle it sold from mid-September 2005 through the end of 2014.
GM was, by far, the industry’s biggest offender. It came incredibly close to breaking the industry’s record for recalls all by its lonesome.
But in the end, GM accounted for fewer than half of the total number of vehicles recalled last year.
That means that, even if GM hadn’t issued a single recall last year, the industry still would have broken its 2004 record by a cool 6 million or so.
There were nearly 9 million recalls from Honda, and roughly the same number from Fiat Chrysler. Toyota recalled 6 million, and Ford called back 5 million.
Granted, a number of recalls by other automakers might not have happened without GM’s help getting the recall ball rolling. GM was Patient Zero for a particularly infectious strain of defect fever.
Regardless, there were still millions of explosive Takata airbags to replace and hundreds of other problems that had nothing to do with GM’s botched ignitions. GM, deservedly, got most of the headlines, but it exposed issues with identifying and fixing safety defects that the entire industry is now grappling with.
That isn’t to minimize the severity of the flaws that GM has now admitted to, and the “pattern of incompetence and neglect,” as CEO Mary Barra put it, that festered over more than a decade.
But the Year of the Recall didn’t happen just because of GM. There were plenty of others who had a role in letting things get out of hand. And now they all have to help clean it up.