Rash of Recalls Raises Questions

BMW 3 Series

Consider the fact that cars today are better and safer than ever before. It’s nearly impossible anymore to go out and buy a bad new car.

Even the least expensive new car on the market is almost guaranteed to provide years of reliable and trouble-free service. Brands traditionally known as unreliable or prone to breakdowns have even evolved to the point of being safe buys.

There are a few brands lately, though, that seem to have had some trouble in the reliabilty department. But don’t worry about that… it affects only potential buyers of vehicles from Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Honda, General Motors and Chrysler.

Recalls by automakers happen, literally, all the time. It’s not uncommon, at all, to read about a carmaker recalling a certain model for some sort of minor safety issue. Those are hardly newsworthy and affect only a small percentage of car owners.

But take a quick glance at some recalls issued recently:

  • Toyota will recall 615,000 minvans due to a problem with the shift lever that could result in unexpected rollaways.
  • Honda recalled more than 800,000 vehicles due to a similar rollaway risk.
  • GM, Chrysler and BMW each faced rollaway recalls in the last year.
  • Yesterday, Nissan recalled 900,000 vehicles due to a stalling problem.
  • Also yesterday, BMW issued a recall for 76,000 vehicles due to a problem with the power braking system.

A family member yesterday pointed out these recalls and made the argument that cars are less safe than they once were. I admit, that’s a lot of screw-ups, with some pretty serious consequences, should things go awry in your new car. It might even make a potential new-car buyer pause and reconsider his or her purchase.

Rather than taking this information as a sign of falling quality, though, let’s look through a different lens. Maybe the increase in recalls is the result of two things:

  1. A fear of lawsuits should damage or deaths occur without the recall.
  2. An overprotective society that demands perfection in new cars.

I have a feeling that new cars 20 years ago would have been recalled at rates exponentially higher than they are today if the same standards applied.

Do all of the recent recalls impact your decision to buy a new car?


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  1. Recalls are a good thing, not a sign of inferior quality. LIke Randy says, cars are so complex with so much to go wrong, I appreciate that carmakers issue recalls. It makes me more likely to buy knowing I’ll be taken care of.

  2. I got my first job at 13, working for a friend’s Dad at his gas station in the mid-60’s. It was a great part-time job for a budding motorhead, and I could overhaul an engine, build headers, do tuneups, brakes, etc. within a few years of learning and helping in the garage.

    The point I’m making is that cars back then were extremely simple compared to modern vehicles. Even something like an electric fuel pump or fuel injection bordered on exotic, hydraulic power steering was typical, stick shifts were common, and there was no such thing as a computer engine management system.

    Cars now are so complex they actually are more like aircraft than cars (compared to the 60’s) so there is much more to go wrong. Multiple computers, dozens of sensors, electric power steering, 8-speed auto trans, turbos, climate control and sat nav– wow, that’s more stuff than I have in my house, and all bouncing down a bumpy road being sprayed with salt water in the winter.

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