Ve­hi­cle re­calls. Are they com­pro­mis­ing?

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Joint edi­tor

How would you re­act if you had just eaten two bites of your favourite food at a restau­rant and the man­ager rushed in to say, ‘Ma’am, this food is po­ten­tially con­tam­i­nated, we are re­call­ing your plate. We want to strengthen the brand value and also want your well­be­ing.’

It hap­pened again on 24 May. This time it was Hyundai Mo­tor In­dia an­nounc­ing that it would re­call 2,437 units of its sports util­ity ve­hi­cle Santa Fe to re­place the ‘stop lamp switch’. In case you did not know, the stop lamp switch con­trols the brake light. If the switch is not work­ing prop­erly, there's a chance that your brake lights may not light up when you press on the brake pedal, putting you in risky sit­u­a­tions.

On 5 May, Honda Cars In­dia Ltd (HCIL) had re­called 31,226 units of se­lect vari­ants of the Amaze com­pact sedan and Brio hatch­back to in­spect them for a pos­si­ble de­fect in the brake sys­tem. On 9 April, Indo-Ja­panese joint ven­ture Toy­ota Kir­loskar Mo­tor (TKM) re­called 44,989 units of the multi-util­ity ve­hi­cle In­nova due to an er­ror dis­cov­ered in the spi­ral ca­ble mounted on the steer­ing wheel. This could lead to con­tin­u­ous il­lu­mi­na­tion of an airbag warn­ing lamp and could have de­ac­ti­vated the driver's airbag. Co­in­ci­den­tally, on the same day the mar­ket leader Maruti Suzuki told deal­ers to stop the sale of spe­cific batches of its pop­u­lar Swift hatch­backs and DZire com­pact sedans be­cause of a loose-fit­ting fuel cap and re­called about 100,000 cars form­ing part of the in­ven­tory.

July 2013 wit­nessed one of the big­gest ve­hi­cle re­calls in the coun­try as GM had re­called 114,000 Tav­era cars for not meet­ing emis­sion norms. Two months later, Ford broke GM’s record by re­call­ing 166,021 units of Figo and Clas­sic sedan due to pow­er­steer­ing prob­lems, mak­ing it the big­gest re­call in the coun­try. And yes, 140,000 units of Tata’s Nano were also re­called in the same year for starter mo­tor is­sues.

How many of those re­called were al­ready on road and how many fam­i­lies were at risk, leave alone the in­con­ve­nience caused to them af­ter a re­call? Al­right, the brands iden­ti­fied the fault, ad­mit­ted the mis­take, and set forth to mend it. But why make such a mis­take in the first place? Is it that they are un­der pres­sure to deliver ve­hi­cles with­out proper test­ing and are com­pro­mis­ing on qual­ity in or­der to fight com­pe­ti­tion? Is it that the third-party au­thor­i­ties and govern­ment bod­ies that are sup­posed to ‘pass’ ve­hi­cles are not equipped or ef­fi­cient enough? Is it that global car man­u­fac­tur­ers have a chalta hai at­ti­tude to­wards In­dian con­sumers? While I was try­ing to dig deep into these ques­tions, I found this state­ment made by the di­rec­tor gen­eral of So­ci­ety of In­dian Au­to­mo­biles Man­u­fac­tur­ers (SIAM): ‘Re­calls build a lot of con­fi­dence in a cus­tomer and strength­ens the brand value. The cus­tomers be­lieve that the com­pany wants their well­be­ing.’

While I hope the lat­ter part of his state­ment is true, I can­not say how right he is about con­fi­dence build­ing be­cause my car has never been re­called and I am yet to meet some­one whose car has been. And now, the scep­tic in me is al­ready imag­in­ing thou­sands of un­safe cars run­ning through­out In­dia – a coun­try where more people die in road ac­ci­dents than any­where else in the world, as per World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Global Sta­tus Re­port on Road Safety.

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