Which Is Better: More Recalls Or Fewer?
If you were to filter out the other major scandals and limit yourself to the “business as usual” recalls that hit new vehicles on a regular basis, it’s plausible that the number has been growing even beyond the increasing number of car sales. The question, then, is whether it’s better to have more or fewer recalls, and the answer you give may have a lot to do with your outlook on life.
More Safe Versus Less Safe
One way to look at the constant recalls is to say that we’re safer as a result. There’s a consistent number of defects that make their way into vehicles every year, and more recalls mean that automakers are catching these faults early and doing their best to fix them quickly, safely, and without any cost to the consumer.
However, there’s also another way of thinking about all the recalls: you might decide that automakers are still up to their old tricks and are trying to conceal their biggest mistakes even as some of their earlier omissions come to light. Thus, the high number of recalls doesn’t mean that a higher percentage of defects are being caught and fixed, it means the same percentage are being caught and so the total number of defects is going up.
The second scenario may be less likely than the first, but there’s also some truth to it. As vehicles steadily grow in complexity and technology, there are more components that can go wrong and possibly endanger the passengers. A vanity light on the visor may have faulty wiring and start a fire, for instance, or an onboard computer may be vulnerable to hackers.
Responsibility Versus Inaction
The other big factor in whether a recall happens or not is quite simply whether or not the automaker is willing to own up to a fault. Admission and recall means having to pay for issuing the notices, building all the spare replacement parts, and then repairing the vehicle. If the defective part has already caused accidents, it also means admitting fault and settling up with the injured parties. There’s also a belief that issuing recalls makes a car company appear less safe than the competition.
On the other hand, when an automaker ignores a recall issue, there’s a chance (however faint) that they’ll avoid being caught and thus get away with manufacturing a defective product. However, when the truth does get out, it means putting out the recall anyway, paying a fine to the government, paying more to settle the lawsuits, and then taking a bigger hit to their reputation for being unsafe and lying about it.
All told, then, it’s clear enough that honesty is the best policy as far as recalls go – at least so long as someone is holding the automakers accountable for their actions. Not only is it less expensive in the long run, but consumers aren’t as bothered by recalls as company executives may think. With recalls now as common in cars as steering wheels and brake pedals, car buyers aren’t as bothered by a recall notice as they are by the news that a hundred people died because a company decided not to issue one. Not only was 2015 the second-biggest year ever for recalls, it was also the biggest year for domestic vehicle sales since 2000.
Vehicle recalls are a fact of life considering how complex automobiles have become, and consumers are surprisingly ready to accept this fact even with their safety on the line. As such, a wise automaker will act early and often, because with regulators and personal injury lawyers looking over their shoulders they can’t afford to count on getting away with ignoring a problem.