This is going to be an article about cars and will hopefully go some way to explaining why a car might be recalled, why such big numbers are sometimes involved and how you are going to know about it if you drive an affected model, but first we want to make the point that recall’s are not exclusive to the car industry only, but pretty much affect many things we all use on a daily basis and in fact, could easily cause death or injury, but do you know anything about them?.
Just a quick look on the net, will bring you lots of information about recall’s, but did you know about the domestic mains extension leads that are a potential fire risk (your TV might be plugged into one right now) and even in the recall data it says “the sockets or cable could catch fire” and that’s pretty dangerous wouldn’t you agree, but do you know anything about it? What about the 1.5 ton scissor jack that’s being recalled because it might fail (hopefully not while you are lying under your car), but do you know anything about it? What about the 2000w fan heater who’s plug can overheat or the hot water bottles that have a manufacturing fault that can cause them to leak and cause skin burns, or the corrosive drain cleaner that your kids can probably open and potentially then swallow, or even the fruity custard baby food that might have small bits of plastic in it?
OK, these are just a small sample of the hundreds of product recalls that happen every year, but the likelihood is that you haven’t heard of any of them and that’s where the car industry differs, because if you’ve got a car that’s subject to a recall, you are going to know about it, the car makers will make sure you do and it doesn’t need an often ill informed sensation hungry press on a mission to frighten people to make sure that happens.
Because each car has a registered owner shown on its V5 (log book), its not difficult with the help of the DVLA for a car maker to find out where everyone of their cars are, and of course, if you regularly have your car serviced by a franchised dealer for your make of car, well they are going to know where you are anyway. The car maker will then contact you in writing, explaining the problem and giving you instructions on how to get the matter fixed and as always, the appointment can be arranged to suit you and there is no cost to you for the rectification work. The franchised dealer will also have been informed of the recall and instructed on how to correct the problem and of course, provided with new parts they can fit, if that’s necessary.
If you have a lease car, well it’s your leasing company who gets the notification and then contacts the company they lease the vehicle to, informing them of the recall and providing them with instructions, to ensure the car is taken to the dealer to be inspected and repaired if necessary.
So we know all kinds of products get recalled, even many simple ones, but cars are not simple, they are very complicated, so of course, they get their share of recalls, but for the main part, they are not anything dramatic, perhaps a leaking boot seal, or a sticking door handle but its important to note that not every car involved in a recall has the fault, or will ever develop it, its simply that the manufacturer wants to look at them all, so they can make certain of that.
Recalls are not restricted to any one manufacturer, its across the board and we couldn’t find one car maker that hasn’t had to issue recalls at some point and I even include the most prestigious and expensive brands in that, indeed one premier brand issued a recall because “the steering gear could become detached from the steering column, with subsequent loss of steering control” (that’s comforting).
At this point, you will be thinking, that we are in the motor trade, so we are going to defend the car manufacturers, but that’s not the case, but what we do, is understand them and understand the reasons that recalls are necessary and based upon years in this industry and supplying 1000’s of cars, we trust them to do the right things.
Can you imagine for one minute that a car maker would knowingly build a car that’s dangerous or needs a complicated fix, part way through its life, of course not, but fact is that cars are complicated things and despite the ridiculous amount of testing that takes place on the components and the vehicles themselves, you just cant be 100% certain in every condition and in every circumstance, that something isn’t going to fail. The cost of a recall for a manufacturer is enormous but the potential litigation costs of a car maker ignoring a problem once they know about it, or being found responsible for causing deaths, it unimaginable and it would be corporate suicide, so be certain, it the people that make the car know, then you will know.
Car makers try and get it right, first time every time and we have to say, in our experience, they don’t do a bad job and I guess at this point, we should look at Toyota and what’s happening there, because the press surrounding this is what’s prompted us to write this article and at this point, I have to say, I would honestly be happy for my wife and family to be driving a Toyota at this time, it wouldn’t concern me.
The Toyota recalls relate to two different issues, one affecting a group of models and the other affecting the new model of the Prius Hybrid. The billing has been “sticking throttle and faulty brakes” and for sure, that sounds dramatic, but in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In both cases, the fix is quick and simple, with the Prius just needing a software change. There haven’t been any cases of cars being involved in accidents or anyone getting hurt anywhere in Europe due to these issues, yet if you listen to the media, well its one step from Armageddon, so we feel sorry for Toyota and the way that they been attacked, over this, when frankly, for years, they have been one of the most conscientious of car makers.
Many people have asked us why a recall like this affects so many vehicles, why are the numbers so big? and that’s simple really, as compared to the old days, when each car was pretty much a bespoke affair, today to make production easier and more consistent and of course, development costs less, the same components are often used across an entire range of cars, so whilst a one model recall may have previously affected say 100,000 cars, today, the same part fitted across an entire range of say 10 models is naturally going to result in a million vehicles, but to make that even worse, the part could have being used for several years, and only now proving problematic, so yes, you could be looking at enormous amounts of cars in the most extreme circumstances.
Faults can arise because the oddest things and we have users running the same vehicles as each other, but doing different jobs with them and consistently, one gets problems that the other doesn’t and visa versa. God forbid I should also suggest that sometimes the problems are down to the miss-use by the driver, but that’s often the case, but even then, no matter how the problem arises, if its obvious that its not an isolated incident, the people that make the car will investigate the problem and will sort a fix out.
One thing that does however continue to impress with the way the car makers handle these issues and one that’s probably very different for almost anything you buy, and that’s irrespective of how old your car is, if a problem is identified, well they are going to fix it for you, free of charge, irrespective of warranties etc and that’s a long term commitment you don’t get anywhere else as far as I know.
As I head towards the end of this item, I feel I need to emphasise to everyone that owns a car, or drives one, that it is critically important that you have your car regularly serviced at a main dealer for the appropriate franchise, as failing to do so, could easily be far more dangerous than these recalls we hear about.
In closing, I hope I have provided you with some comfort that the people who make our cars will not shirk their duties, they will not shut up and hope it goes away, but they will resolve the issue, then roll it out to every owner of every vehicle that even “just might” be affected. If a car maker felt an issue was sufficiently dangerous that you shouldn’t use the vehicle, well they would tell you not to drive it and unless that’s what you are told, chances are that the risk in continuing to drive it is extremely minimal.
Its perhaps more than a co-incidence that this whole matter regarding Toyota, was hyped up in the USA, and Since 1966 when the US ‘National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was implemented, requiring vehicles to comply with Federal safety standards and requiring vehicle manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety related defects, more than 390 million cars, trucks, busses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds, as well as 46 million tyres have been recalled to correct safety defects. Funny that this heavily publicised issue comes at a time when the American domestic motor industry is in crisis, yet over 2 million Americans buy a new Toyota every year and a cynic might say that making such a fuss about this fairly insignificant recall, might just be a way to get Americans to buy domestic product the next time around, but as I am not a cynic, I couldn’t possibly believe that.
The press this recall has received has been phenomenal and way out of proportion as Toyota have acknowledged the issues, investigated the problems and arrived at a way to resolve it and without any media involvement and were already in the process of doing that. So my words of comfort to you are that the vehicle makers will not shirk their duties, they will not shut up and hope it goes away, but they will resolve the issue, then roll it out to every owner of every vehicle that even “might” be affected. If a car maker felt an issue was sufficiently dangerous that you shouldn’t use the vehicle, well they would tell you not to drive it.
Toyota say they have already started to rectify the cars involved and the rectification has been reviewed with VOSA and the rectification is a permanent solution, but they also say not all cars are effected and you can check if yours is, by visiting their website on www.toyota.co.uk however, if your vehicle is behaving strangely, or exhibiting any symptoms of the throttle being stiff to press down, or if you have a 3rd generation Toyota Prius and have noticed anything strange about its braking, you should of course contact your local Toyota dealer so that you gets yours fixed early.