Echoes of recalls
CAR recalls are in the spotlight again after the fourth Holden Commodore check in three months.
Parent company General Motors issued its 54th recall in the US so far this year, covering about 28.9 million cars.
With every recall, the same questions are asked: are more things going wrong with cars because they’re more technical these days, or are we better at finding the faults?
The reality is both are true, but there is a third factor. Car companies are increasingly worried about being sued.
General Motors is under intense scrutiny in the US after it was found to have delayed a recall on a faulty ignition switch for 10 years.
The dodgy ignition, which can switch off the engine unexpectedly, has been linked to 13 deaths and investigators believe more will be traced back to the fault.
General Motors has set aside up to $1 million per case to compensate families of those killed.
In Australia, vehicle recall requirements can be vague. In essence, the fault must be deemed a “safety hazard” for it to be called a recall, which is then published on recalls.gov.au. Makers must publicly advertise the defect and contact customers directly.
But many makers fear the public embarrassment in the belief that the word “recall” is bad for business.
More often than the public realises, they lobby government officials to have the fault downgraded.
They are allowed to handle other defects discreetly in the form of a “dealer service campaign”, meaning there is no need to advertise the fault or contact customers and the fault is fixed during routine servicing.
The work is done only if owners take the car back to the dealer rather than an independent repairer. And even then, they are not necessarily advised of the “running change” to their car.