I understand that the United States cannot impose our laws on other countries. But this story is troubling because I know how hard consumer attorneys in this country have worked for decades to get auto manufacturers to make their vehicles safer. From seat belts to air bags, many of the safety changes we have seen would never have occurred if not for the lawsuits brought against car makers by personal injury lawyers.
Apparently we need some of those lawsuits in Mexico now. Vehicles manufactured there for use in Mexico are far less safe than vehicles made in the same factory but intended for sale in the United States. Here are the opening paragraphs from a Dallas Morning News story detailing this problem:
In Mexico’s booming auto industry, the cars rolling off assembly lines may look identical, but how safe they are depends on where they’re headed.
Vehicles destined to stay in Mexico or go south to the rest of Latin America carry a code signifying there’s no need for antilock braking systems, electronic stability control, or more than two air bags, if any, in its basic models.
If the cars will be exported to the United States or Europe, however, they must meet stringent safety laws, including as many as six to 10 air bags, and stability controls that compensate for slippery roads and other road dangers, say engineers who have worked in Mexico-based auto factories.
Because the price of the two versions of the cars is about the same, the dual system buttresses the bottom lines of automakers such as General Motors and Nissan. But it’s being blamed for a surge in auto-related fatalities in Mexico, where laws require virtually no safety protections.