Of airbags, brakes, gas pedals and recalls…


The big news this time of the year has got all the ingredients of a soap opera

The title may be a bit misleading, for frankly I am not going to be writing about any of the automotive components listed above. The only topic of any interest at all seems to be the size, fallout and repercussions of the largest recalls in automotive history.
Before I even start putting pen to paper on this, may I offer one piece of advice to expert, generalist and the interested onlooker to this subject – stop getting carried away by the media and our overwhelming interest in it. As an industry this is the stuff that makes our mouth’s collectively salivate. Perhaps it can be only matched by a bankruptcy or two in its ability to get people to notice the car industry on our pages.
You may gasp. “but what about the risks attached to the failure of parts?” Before you manage to put your brows together in tune with that question mark may I remind you that companies like Toyota, Honda and the like are the very companies that have brought automotive quality standards to where they are today. Perhaps ironically, you are measuring their deemed failure against the massive success of the Japanese system that bred this excellence. I am sure that there are many drivers, atleast of my generation, who have learnt in theory and sometimes by hard experience that systems do fail. So what do we do? Brakes fail, we use gears, throttle control and finally the parking brake to stop.  Door latches fail, we tie the door handle to the seat or B-pillar with rope and drive to the repair station.
What we don’t do is make such a huge noise about a quality-control failure that seems to have become so ‘safety-related’.
Ask yourself, “what are the chances?” What are the chances of you getting a car with a defective component? What are the chances that the component will fail while you own the car? What are the chances that it will fail at a crucial time, as you are driving up to a junction or through heavy traffic?
Then compare that with the chances you take by not wearing a seatbelt, buying a car without a full complement of safety systems because it has saved you some money, speaking or texting on your mobile while driving or even buying a ‘seemingly’ perfect car from a complete stranger because the used car is just so right for your budget. Or even the chances that you take when running across a road. I would take a brand new car from any of the affected manufacturers, especially Toyota any day over those chances.
One lesson we need to learn that a man’s and an organisation’s word is only as good as the lengths they will go to stand by it. Even if genuine mistakes are made, one needs the strength to admit them and then rectify them. Toyota on a global basis has done just that. So have the other brands affected. Full marks to them. I would still recommend them over other brands that ignore problems, or choose to quietly address them in the silence of the dealers workshops.
Perhaps now, more than ever, we as car buyers need to realise that there is no such thing as a perfect machine. All cars are the outcome of the work of designers, planners, engineers, vendors and so on, who have to integrate supply, production and quality control. The aim for a zero failure rate is laudable but hardly realistic. A more pragmatic aim would be that any failure is safe, with no loss of limb or death resulting therewith.
I have never been a fan of big business and usually stand with the underdog on most issues, but in this case folks, you’ve got to stop worrying. As long as remedial action is put in place there will be no long-term fallout of the whole recall issue. And to the gentlemen from the not-affected brands who are sniggering at the embarrassment, remember next time around it could be you.

The title may be a bit misleading, for frankly I am not going to be writing about any of the automotive components listed above. The only topic of any interest at all seems to be the size, fallout and repercussions of the largest recalls in automotive history.

Before I even start putting pen to paper on this, may I offer one piece of advice to expert, generalist and the interested onlooker to this subject – stop getting carried away by the media and our overwhelming interest in it. As an industry this is the stuff that makes our mouth’s collectively salivate. Perhaps it can be only matched by a bankruptcy or two in its ability to get people to notice the car industry on our pages.

You may gasp. “but what about the risks attached to the failure of parts?” Before you manage to put your brows together in tune with that question mark may I remind you that companies like Toyota, Honda and the like are the very companies that have brought automotive quality standards to where they are today. Perhaps ironically, you are measuring their deemed failure against the massive success of the Japanese system that bred this excellence. I am sure that there are many drivers, atleast of my generation, who have learnt in theory and sometimes by hard experience that systems do fail. So what do we do? Brakes fail, we use gears, throttle control and finally the parking brake to stop.  Door latches fail, we tie the door handle to the seat or B-pillar with rope and drive to the repair station.

What we don’t do is make such a huge noise about a quality-control failure that seems to have become so ‘safety-related’.

Ask yourself, “what are the chances?” What are the chances of you getting a car with a defective component? What are the chances that the component will fail while you own the car? What are the chances that it will fail at a crucial time, as you are driving up to a junction or through heavy traffic?

Then compare that with the chances you take by not wearing a seatbelt, buying a car without a full complement of safety systems because it has saved you some money, speaking or texting on your mobile while driving or even buying a ‘seemingly’ perfect car from a complete stranger because the used car is just so right for your budget. Or even the chances that you take when running across a road. I would take a brand new car from any of the affected manufacturers, especially Toyota any day over those chances.

One lesson we need to learn that a man’s and an organisation’s word is only as good as the lengths they will go to stand by it. Even if genuine mistakes are made, one needs the strength to admit them and then rectify them. Toyota on a global basis has done just that. So have the other brands affected. Full marks to them. I would still recommend them over other brands that ignore problems, or choose to quietly address them in the silence of the dealers workshops.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we as car buyers need to realise that there is no such thing as a perfect machine. All cars are the outcome of the work of designers, planners, engineers, vendors and so on, who have to integrate supply, production and quality control. The aim for a zero failure rate is laudable but hardly realistic. A more pragmatic aim would be that any failure is safe, with no loss of limb or death resulting therewith.

I have never been a fan of big business and usually stand with the underdog on most issues, but in this case folks, you’ve got to stop worrying. As long as remedial action is put in place there will be no long-term fallout of the whole recall issue. And to the gentlemen from the not-affected brands who are sniggering at the embarrassment, remember next time around it could be you.

 

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