Record auto recall affects thousands of Canadian cars

A deployed Takata manufactured airbag is seen from a vehicle at a recycled auto parts lot in Detroit, Michigan May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

You’ve probably never heard of Takata Corp. before this week.

The massive Japanese manufacturer quietly produces car-safety apparatus like seatbelts and airbags, and mostly just catches the spotlight for massive recalls.

In fact, the otherwise under-the-radar company is behind what’s now the biggest automotive recall in history.

Takata Corp. is conducting a voluntary recall of almost 34 million defective airbags that ironically are found to pose serious injury risks. The bags inflate with extreme force and can send metal shards flying into passengers. So far, they’ve caused six deaths and dozens of injuries.

Takata was also behind the 1995 recall of more than eight million seatbelts, one of the biggest such recalls in U.S. history.

This recall affects around 36 million cars worldwide from 11 automakers, including more than 700,000 Honda models in Canada alone.

These are troubling times for car owners; 2014 was a record year for automotive recalls in Canada, with nearly 600 safety notices issued for faulty airbags, fuel leaks, ignition switches, and more.

Here’s how Canadian laws govern recalls.

Generally, a product is recalled when they’re discovered to pose a threat to public health or safety.

There’s an expectation that a company will voluntarily recall such dangerous products, but the Consumer Product Safety Act allows the health minister to order reluctant manufacturers to take their products off the shelves.

Except vehicles are exempt from the act and Transport Canada doesn’t have the power to mandate recalls. Instead, it relies on voluntary action from automakers.Naturally, that’s a risky system.

Recalls are expensive and they’re bad publicity, so some manufacturers instead try to quietly fix the problem while some drivers continue driving unsafe cars. GM is now facing lawsuits alleging that it took too long to notify drivers of an ignition switch problem that affected over 200,000 cars and caused several deaths.

The New York Times says Takata was aware of its airbag problem
as early as 2004.

Manufacturers must tell Transport Canada when problems emerge and they’re also required to notify the car owner. However, they often end up notifying the car’s original owner when the car itself has been sold.

What can I do if I buy a ‘lemon’?

So it’s important to do your homework, both when buying a car or even just making periodic check-ups. Major automotive recalls often make the news, but it’s not that hard to miss that information.

The government and individual car manufacturers provide searchable databases where you can check if your car has ever been subject to a recall.

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