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Car Purchase 15 - Product Recalls

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Once again, the aircraft manufacturers are one step ahead of the motor industry. They recover, even from the bottom of the ocean, up to 90% of an airplane wreck, put it all together again and try to discover from fire-traces and from other details, where the fire started and how, perhaps by altering the standards, it's spreading can be avoided in future models.

Ok, the results of aircraft crashes are a great deal more dramatic than car accidents and the car manufacturers are doing everything possible, to get rid of often appearing phenomena. There are e.g., research teams at Mercedes Benz, who investigate every accident that they have access to, to find out whether a faulty vehicle component or components, could have been partly responsible for the occurrence.

Right now, one of them has been hit again, namely Toyota, who are recalling 6,58 million vehicles worldwide. Toyota of all people, who otherwise have a relatively good reputation as far as reliability is concerned. Although the consumers have notoriously short memories, the reputation of the company who has had to recall cars several times in a row, does suffer quite significantly, for a time, the production of several of their US-vehicles was even suspended.

This market is a particularly difficult one, one reason for this is that the drivers-licence training is not especially good. There, whole families have been wiped out because the accelerator pedal jammed. This type of fault hasn't resulted any deaths in Europe. The lawyers in the USA are much more adept in situations like this, and more willing to push high compensation demands through the courts.

It doesn't, by the way, only hit the imports. The boss of General Motors, Mary Barra, who is still relatively new in this position, has already been cited in an accusing manner, before the US-congress. Particularly noteworthy, is the fact that independent investigations done at a later date, have exonerated or acquitted the respective companies, who nevertheless paid out the compensation claims.

Audi also had to find this out very painfully when it was said, that the Audi 5000 simply drives off by itself. Of course, no-one considered it even possible, than in this car with an automatic transmission, the gas-pedal could have been mistaken for the brake! Audi was later rehabilitated, indeed the sales of this model sank to an absolute record low.

The latest recall-action at Toyota involves 27 (!) models.

It's difficult to say, whether the number of recalls has increased lately. However, one thing is certain, through the widely spread use of the same components, the number of vehicles affected increases greatly. Zero-fault tolerances and the employing of more controlling-staff should help. At least there are liability insurances which cover cases like this.

The only thing that one can't insure, is the loss of image. BMW was very crafty, they announced a much smaller recall, just one day after Toyota announced theirs. Such a thing might be called, 'in the slipstream riding'. VW even has its own website, where, after entering your chassis-number, you can find out if any faults in the vehicle are known.

Strangely enough, the recalls coming from the various automobile manufacturers, are most widely spread by the media. As far as I'm concerned, I would be far more worried by the glass shard which found its way into the apple-sauce or the illegitimately high amount of harmful ingredients found in some foodstuffs, than by the faulty cable-harness leading to the side-airbag. At least in this case, the fault would be indicated.

The reason for recalling actions, is to keep foreseeable damage from the customers. Toyota e.g., is quick to emphasize, that in this case the recall was voluntary. There is also the possibility of a forced recall. The advantage for the manufacturer: He is normally the first to hear of a possible fault in the series.

Of course, the costs incurred by the recall are also weighed up against the possible expenses caused by having to pay compensation damages. Thus, the impression one gets, that there are far more recalls in the USA, is not that far from the truth. Of course, when the recall is made public, the final solution to the problem and it's realisation, must be 100% certain.

The workshops are actually the ones who should be happy, the manufacturers are serving them the repair work on a silver plate and, the paying of the bill is also guaranteed. Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn't always pay the same price as the private customer would. This belongs in the chapter about the sales of car models and has little to do with the usual freedom of action that an independent dealer enjoys. 04\14