The unintended acceleration scandal that rocked Toyota’s world spread like a dreaded MRSA virus from the front pages of newspapers to local late night news. It turned out to be much ado about floormats, not so much the throttle system.
After all the government interrogations, exhaustive examinations and relentless reports of runaway vehicles, there wasn’t ever any proof that any Toyota vehicles accelerated by themselves. It didn’t happen. Yet, it cost the company $5 billion according to Automotive News, to recall 10 million vehicles and Toyota settled out of court with investors who sued Toyota because the suit said that the company concealed information.
This looks like small potatoes compared to Chrysler’s big announcement.
Chrysler announced in early June its refusal of the request by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to recall 2.7 million Jeeps from model years 1993-2004 (Grand Cherokee) and 2002-2007 (Liberty) for fuel tank safety in rear-end crashes. According to a white paper published by Chrysler, the Jeeps are not defective and their fuel systems do not pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety in rear impact collisions.
Chrysler’s refusal is based on over 30 years of field data that reveals an extremely low number of rear impact crashes with fire or fuel leak that occurred in a fleet of more than 5 million subject vehicles that have traveled more than 500 billion miles over 50 million registered vehicle years.
And then, Chrysler did a recall on its refusal to do a recall.
In mid-June, Chrysler decided public safety (and perhaps public perception) are paramount. A voluntary recall of 2.7 million Jeeps is now underway. Chrysler said it will: “conduct a voluntary campaign with respect to the vehicles in question that, in addition to a visual inspection of the vehicle will, if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts.”
We decided to check back in with Toyota on the subject of recalls.
“Recalls are an every day occurrence,” says Cindy Knight, Toyota’s public affairs manager quality and safety, “and that’s probably going to continue.”
“The automotive industry is so highly regulated. It’s the most regulated industry and that includes everything from electronics to diapers to food. There are more and more rules every day and they are constantly being updated. It’s hard to keep up,” said Knight.
She notes the number of recalls is probably going to continue for several reasons. Cars are very complicated. The abundance of electronics and computers causes recalls for both fixes and updates. And the use of common parts across vehicle lines, which makes manufacturing more efficient, also increases the possibility of more recalls. Then the competitiveness of the industry is a factor.
Recalls can be nerve-wracking. Consumers react by delaying because they think it will cost them time and money, or by panicking, or ignoring them altogether. The best approach is to go to your dealership promptly. If you receive a recall notice from your automaker, then the recall won’t cost you money. The company will fix your problem free.
“Sometimes recalls are for something that won’t break down immediately, but might develop into a problem. It’s important to pay attention to them,” says Knight. “You want to keep your vehicle up to date.”
For the most part, the car manufacturer issues the recall. In 2012 of the 664 recalls, 507 were issued by automakers and 157 were issued by NHTSA. A single recall can involve thousands of vehicles or a few. Automakers have rigorous systems in place to track possible defects both within their companies and with their suppliers so they can spot a problem quickly. — Kate McLeod, Motor Matters
Manufacturer Photo: Toyota team members assemble the 2012 Corolla at the Blue Springs, Miss., plant.
Jeeps subject to recall are model years 1993-2004 (Grand Cherokee) and 2002-2007 (Liberty) for fuel tank safety in rear-end crashes.
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2013