“Unsafe at any Speed” : The Truth about RECALLS | WheelHouse

“Unsafe at any Speed” : The Truth about RECALLS | WheelHouse

– In 1914, Henry Ford had the upholstery
of some Model T’s stuffed
with Spanish moss.
In a rush to get the
Model T’s on the road,
some of the seats got packed with raw,
untreated Spanish moss.
What’s the worst that can happen?
All the insects that
lived in the Spanish moss
eventually ate their way through the seats
and into the garments and skin
of the Model T passengers and drivers.
– They’re ripping my flesh off!
– What to do?
Well, Ford replaced all the stuffing.
I’m Nolan Sykes, and I’m
talking about recalls.
It would be another five decades
before the word recall became
a regular part of the lexicon.
Although it and consumers have been aware
of the dangers of driving
since cars first hit the road.
We all know a little about how
the car revolutionized American lives.
But the newfound freedom and convenience
was not without cost.
As more cars crowded the roads,
more traffic deaths and injuries occurred.
People scrambled to figure
out why it was happening.
Everything from driver
and pedestrian error
to highway engineering and
traffic hazards were blamed.
And when some issues were
found to be early design
flaws in the automobile,
people were kinda like,
yeah, this is a bit on us.
These things are new, they’re
still working out the kinks.
– Gotta be careful!
– Stop yelling at me, I know
what I’m doing, alright?
(car crashing)
– Initially, the focus was
on the driver responsibility.
The National Safety Council was formed
in the early 20s to
increase public awareness
of the dangers of driving.
They had nothing to do
with making cars safer.
Laws to promote safety
passed and enforced,
including arrests for
driving under the influence
and the implementation of traffic signals.
Things got a little better,
but auto makers were still slow to act
on redesigning cars to make them safer.
All-steel bodies weren’t
standard until the 1930s,
same thing with shatterproof glass,
and that was patented in 1909.
Manufacturers were quick to assure drivers
that operating a car was
getting safer all the time.
But they resisted to do things
like seat belts and padded dashboards
because they worried that
adding safety features to cars
would make people think
that cars might not be safe.
– [Narrator] A revolutionary new discovery
about the seat belt.
It’s beautiful.
– And in the heyday of American cars,
I’m talking the late 50s,
a young Harvard law student
by the name of Ralph Nader
started to become bored
by his courses.
Instead of squeezing behind a desk
in some stuffy classroom,
Nader decided he’d hitchhike across the US
to research issues facing Native Americans
and look into effecting change
with migrant workers’ rights.
But he kept thinking
about those dang-nabbit
hard as heck cars that picked him up
as he hitchhiked across the country.
I mean, big metal boxes going 60?
Something about that
didn’t sit right with him.
So, when Nader rejoined civilian life,
he started researching the auto industry’s
lack of response to car safety features.
It took him a few years
to get the word out,
but when he released his scathing expose,
Unsafe at any Speed,
the Designed-In Dangers
of the American Automobile in 1965,
it became a best-seller.
It sent shockwaves throughout the country
with drivers, law makers,
and even the auto industry,
which was looking to avoid the
harsh glare of the spotlight.
Listen to the first sentence.
For over a half a century
the automobile has brought death, injury,
and the most inestimable
sorry and deprivation
to millions of people.
Holy crap.
Unsafe all but pointed
the finger a car makers
for their outright
refusal to spend the money
needed to make safety features mandatory.
The book detailed stories of
inadequate crash protection,
of drivers impaled on
non-collapsible steering columns,
and of cars like the Chevrolet Corvette,
which was sold with a
fatal suspension defect.
Chevy tried to alleviate the design flaw
by advising that tires
should be well under-inflated
to improve handling,
but nobody knew about it.
And the car would flip in sharp turns
when the tires were inflated
to industry standards.
Nader said that the
Corvette was the biggest
safety transgressor on the road.
Nader explained that car makers
were ignoring a moral imperative
to make their products
safer because they did not want
to spend the money to do so.
With the publication of Unsafe,
the heat was on
and car makers finally faced
the wrath of the government.
Within ten months of the book’s release,
Senate hearings began with Nader
facing off against the
defiant auto industry.
In 1966, as a result of those hearings,
the Department of Transportation
and predecessor agencies
of the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration were formed.
Also in September of that year,
President Lyndon B. Johnson
signed the National
Traffic and Motor Vehicle
Safety Act into law
to enforce new or upgraded
vehicle safety standards
and to supervise safety recalls.
With the NHTSA in place,
traffic fatalities and injuries
were significantly reduced.
And technologies like
three point seat belts,
energy absorbing steering assemblies,
dual cylinders and front disc brakes
were made standard.
Airbags, electronic stability control,
and more recently, rear-view cameras
and automatic braking have also since
added into the equation.
Added safety features and recalls
became an everyday fact
of life for consumers,
but car companies still had
issues with transparency.
Take, for example, the Ford Pinto.
In 1968, Lee Iacocca
decided Ford needed an in
on the economy car market.
He hurried production of the Ford Pinto,
hoping to compete with cars
like the economical but sporty Datsun 510,
which was becoming a
favorite of US consumers.
While the Pinto was in development,
Ford found a flaw in the car’s fuel tanks.
And it wasn’t like, heh,
hey, these might rust.
It was a little more serious.
The defect would cause them to explode.
Even in a low-impact crash.
(tires screeching)
(triangle ding)
Engineers offered solutions,
but implementing those
would mean the car would be delayed.
Iacocca said-
♪ Nobody gonna slow me down ♪
and the Pinto was released with
the defect in tact in 1970.
This proved to be a fatal mistake.
I don’t mean fatal figuratively,
because people really died.
Pintos involved in
low-speed rear-end crashes
burst into flames and people
were killed or severely injured
as a result of the defect.
Because data for such things
wasn’t great in the 70s,
we don’t have definitive numbers,
but fatalities from the defect
have been estimated as high as 190 people.
The NHTSA started an investigation
on the Pinto in 1974.
But it took another three
years for the problem
to be made public.
It was an article in Mother Jones magazine
that first revealed to the public
that the problem would’ve
cost Ford just an extra
11 dollars a car to fix.
The company and Iacocca’s reputation
were nearly destroyed as a result.
And Ford finally recalled
the Pinto in 1978.
People died for 11 dollars.
But car makers still fought the system
and conspired to delay the adoption
of NHTSA crash standards.
In other words, the
industry did what they could
to continue to keep its profits flowing
and continue the status quo.
While NHTSA changed the game,
it still failed to do one thing.
Hold car companies criminally responsible
for knowingly keeping safety
standards at bay for profit.
It only held them civilly liable.
Memos were found at some companies
when they became aware of a fault
would do the math to find
out how much it would cost
to fix the fault and
compare that to how much
they estimated to lose in civil hearings.
If the cost of fixing
it outweighed the cost
they’d lose in lawsuits,
they wouldn’t issue a recall.
Think about that.
So, in 2000, the Transportation Recall
Enhancement Accountability
and Documentation,
or TREAD Act,
established criminal liability
for auto execs who neglected to adhere
to new reporting requirements
related to defects
or reports of injury or death
related to its products.
While it’s a step in the right direction,
it’s still limited in its reach.
And companies benefit from a provision
that allows considerably
flexibility and time
to fix any safety violation.
Case in point, the Takata airbags recall,
the largest in history.
At about the same time the
TREAD Act was made law,
Takata execs knew their
airbags weren’t up to snuff
and could in fact kill people.
Before 2001, airbags were made
with a sodium azide propellant
that was relatively safe
when the bag was deployed.
But to save a few bucks, Takata changed
their airbag propellant to an
explosive ammonium nitrate.
Takata knew that it was dangerous.
When the bags were deployed,
they sent shrapnel flying.
Drivers and passengers were
killed and seriously injured
as a result of this decision.
And in 2017, Takata agreed to plead guilty
and pay upwards of a billion
dollars in criminal penalties
for knowingly selling
products that could kill
or hurt people.
While some cars with Takata
airbags have been recalled,
more than 30 million
are still in US highways
with the problem unresolved.
I mention the Takata airbag recall
because it’s the biggest one ever.
But there’s others.
There have been faulty starter
switches that disable a car,
there have been accelerators
that won’t stop accelerating.
Heck, in South Africa, there’s a car
whose engine is lighting on fire
and it’s being blamed on
drivers or the weather.
I’ll take bugs in the
seats over those any day.
Look, I love cars.
I’m not gonna say don’t drive a car.
I understand that nothing
is ever 100% risk-free.
But I’m a little guy, so what can I do?
Well, first you can check your VIN
to make sure there’s no open recalls
on whatever you’re driving.
Then get it fixed.
Cars are safer now than
they’ve ever been before.
And that’s because we’re demanding it.
Thanks to Nader, there’s
independent testing
and watchdog groups that try to keep
us little guys safe.
It’s up to us to look out for each other.
I don’t know who the next Nader is,
I hope we don’t need them.
Maybe someday soon safety recalls
will be a thing of the past
while we cruise through life as we can be.
Going around 60 miles an hour.
Or faster.
We look at the lesser-known
stories in the car world
every week here on WheelHouse,
so make sure you hit that
yellow Subscribe button right there.
If you like safe cars,
check out this episode
of Up to Speed on Saab.
I mentioned safety glass earlier,
if you wanna know more about that
check out this episode of Science Garage.
Follow me on Instagram @NolanJSykes
and follow Donut @DonutMedia.
Wear your seat belt, because it’s there.
And you should.
People died.
See you later.

100 Replies to ““Unsafe at any Speed” : The Truth about RECALLS | WheelHouse”

  1. I did 1,000+ airbag inflator recalls in 4 month in 2017. And a further 150 in 2018 and 7 so far this year. Though im grateful that Mazda jumped on that straight away

  2. This reminded me that my Saab 9-3 has a Takata air bag that I know has been recalled but I keep putting it off. Jeez.

  3. You know what cool, if you have a pinto that wasn't taken in to get the gas tank fixed you can take it into a ford dealer and they have to fix it. It's hilarious. I brought in a shitty old one I bought just to see the faces on the employees when they had to tear into a rusty shitty pinto to do recall work.

  4. I have Takata airbags in my Audi and I keep getting mail about it, problem is i have to drive 2 hours to the dealer and just don't have time.

  5. I Drive a 1968 Dodge Dart everyday, yes she has Lap belts, and at the time optional Shoulder belts that mount to the roof and can attached to the lap belt by separate seat belt lock and be held there by small clips, In case you don't want to use them. They will never save my life, more or less there to make sure I remain Dead inside my Car and don't have to bug you, by flying thru the windshield to ruin your Day.. Peace have fun out there driving your self braking I'm just to busy to drive Cars, cause I'm texting or drunk future cars.. and feel safe. Cry babies.

  6. Quit clipping yer mic! Keep the energy, but turn down your mic volume! Red=bad for speech! Good stuff, otherwise!

  7. My neighbor’s house burned down because his car caught fire in his garage. It turns out the Chevy impala had a recall.

  8. The bash on the corvair has been proven to be false. Yes it could get its ass end out but was nowhere near as easy as Ralph Nader claimed.

  9. I watched this while drinking a cup of milk because I praise the religion of Nolanism… ps break my stride by Matthew wilder is my favorite song

  10. This Takata issue is huge! I work in Toyota here in Spain and we receive vehicles because of this recall DAYLY! Almost 20 cars per day. And this numbers are the same in every authorized official dealer in all the country.

  11. WTF… why did yall need to put a smug picture of trump smiling during a part when a car company got caught? Insinuating something about my president?

  12. The only thing that's known to be a problem with my 2008 CBR600RR and that specific generation, is the starter button. It can easily be fixed by a soldering iron.

  13. The explosive Ford Pinto fallacy was proven to be practically myth decades ago. A Ford Pinto has a 0.6% chance of exploding. ABC and the research group were proven.to have deliberately rigged the vehicles to explode.

  14. And yet you still have the baby boomers and few gen x'ers saying that old cars are safer because they were bigger. Yet the evidence speaks for itself.. older cars prior to the 1980s were generally unsafe.

  15. What the hell is takata? Are you just calling it takata instead of Toyota because the YouTube video would get claimed or is there actually s car company called takata?

  16. My car had a Takata airbag and despite the recall, I had to wait 3 months until it got fixed! I had to drive another car during that time!

  17. Every time I see A parked Ford Kugo in a parking lot I feel the need to adorn a bomb squad vest. Ford Kugo, the Samsung Note of the automobile world.

  18. In Australia we recently had the Takata airbag scandal/recall. We own a 2013 Subaru Outback and they keeped pushing the recall back. And when they finally replaced it they just replaced it with another takata airbag

  19. My mustang’s airbag was part of that Takata airbag recall. I thankfully only had the car for about half a year before I got the airbag changed. Haven’t got in a wreck but who knows what could have happened if I did!

  20. I respect what Nader was trying to do, but I hate him simply because he killed the corvair. The second gen corvair(came out after the book) fixed all of the problems the first had and the second gen was a great car(one of my dream cars) but the book cast a negative light on the car and even though they were better people stopped buying them. Imagine if that didnt happen, and if Chevy never stopped making them. They were literally an American Porsche, rwd, rear engine, flat 6, they were cool

  21. The corvair was killed because people were driving it wrong. Take a sharp corner that's downhill in any car. Its gonna flip. Unless it's a race car. It wasn't given a fair shot.

  22. We need more airbagas that use foam and can widstand high velosity side, front , rear impacts and reduce whiplash to a almost "0" injury rate.

  23. yea so that takata airbag problem has been going on for a long time, honda has been recalling them since 2007. the toyota accelerator problem was really a nothing burger and very few cars actually had a problem even though many were recalled. but thanks to the safety nannies we have to have all of these stupid components that fail or end up being just as dangerous to lull us into a sense of safety so we don't pay attention to actually not dying while operating a ton and a half or more piece of equipment at 60+ mph.

    don't get me wrong some things need to be recalled and fixed or improved upon, other things are just there to make us feel safer.

  24. People… like my dad… like to say “no one needs a car that fast.” I’ve done 145mph ON A CLOSED COURSE in my mustang. Is that unsafe? No, speed is not what is killing people. It’s suddenly becoming stationary. Fast cars are safer then slow cars.

  25. Nolan, us little guys CAN do something to help push recalls. While consumers can report complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these reports can fall through the cracks. However, consumers can submit a petition to the NHTSA for them to investigate possible safety problems. I went through this process a few years ago for a passenger presence sensor (PPS) in the 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice and 2007-2010 Saturn Sky. Story here:


  26. your research is wrong repeating an extremist view w/o acknowledging a redesign before the damn book was published. get ur damn government outta my car, would gladly pay for safety features

  27. When unrestrained capitalism are joined with corrupt governments totally funded by large corporations…. people die for $11 or less!!!
    We need Mr. Bernie Sanders as the next president to take down such greedy industries and restore some balance!

  28. i still have an airbag recall on my 2007 is350 , says it’ll throw shrapnel at you if the airbags deployed

    edit: haha i have takata airbags in my car

  29. Just want to add this, the corvair did not have a “flawed” suspension, it had a swing arm style suspension very similar to ones used in iconic cars like the porsche 356, VW beetle, and Mercedes Benz 300sl. And it is one of the best handling cars of its time period, Not to Mention one of the first production turbo charged cars. Ps the tire pressures are located on the inside of the glove box.

  30. I wish we went back to do what you feel is right. If you want to drive, there is risk. I never get in my car and say "I hope they made this Infiniti strong. I don't want to die today. If we stopped making cars so damn safe there would be the right amount of people on this planet

  31. That's a nicely produced video, except Unsafe at any Speed has been largely debunked. His assault on the Corvair was disproven by the NHTSA in 1972, stating "the 1960-63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests…the handling and stability performance of the 1960-63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic." By that point it was too late, Chevy has already killed the Corvair. In addition, safety was already increasing. In 1925 the number of deaths per 100 million people on the road was 17.9, and by 1965 that number had fallen to 5.5. Nader stretched the truth, and while the creation of safety bureaus in the government is significant and positive, the book itself isn't reliable and is at best apocryphal.

    You also make it seem like putting explosives in airbags was new and the source of the problem with the Takata airbags. Explosive gases are the main method of airbag inflation in all cars, and their inclusion is not only normal but necessary to their rapid deployment and their positive effect on your safety in a crash. The issue with the Takata airbags was not the propellant but the casing used to hold the propellant. The change in explosive was not accompanied by a change in explosive housing. This housing was a metal cylinder designed to deform in a controlled manner when the previous propellant ignited. With a new propellant, portions of that old style of metal cylinder now had a chance to fracture and the explosive rush of gas from the propellant sent those metal shards into the passenger.

    You really should get an editor who can fact check your episodes before you go to production.

  32. Hey, do you guys remember all of those South American work camps that Ford had? Or what about all of those cases of ignoring sexual harrassment and racist death threats in Ford factories? Oh no? Just me?

  33. Hmmm…No Wonder The FORD Name Means
    My friend had a 1976 Ford Pinto..
    I guess I should get a "I SURVIVED THE FORD PINTO FIRE SCARE"….

  34. Maybe they should have done a recall on the dodge darts transmission ours puked after 20000 miles and the transmission was replaced before we bought the car at the dealer

    Might have been that our car was a bit of a lemon

  35. $11 in the 1900s so yeah, people did die for that. Lol a person got stabbed for $36. In our modern age. Maybe 2 or 3 dollars back then.

  36. It's actually mind boggling how some of our safety technologies simply didn't exist back then; namely the seatbelt… Looking back at history we almost shake our heads… I wonder what safety technologies we don't yet have, that our future people will look back at and wonder how or why they never existed during our current time. Lane keep assist and automatic crash detection don't seem quite as revolutionary as the seatbelt imo, but i haven't really looked into those relatively new features so I can't say for certain.

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