Vehicle recalls. Are they compromising?
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.