/ Motoring

Should makers be forced to recall unsafe cars?

Close-up of Ferrari 458 Italia

There’s been a number of high profile recalls by car manufacturers, with the Ferrari 458 Italia being the latest. But this response is only voluntary – shouldn’t we have an independent body to force recalls for our safety?

A few weeks ago I received a letter, recorded delivery from Renault, marked ‘urgent safety call information’. Inside it read ‘we have identified a software issue with the electronic parking brake computer’ (on my six year old Grand Scenic), which ‘may cause activation of the electronic parking brake while driving’.

I booked the car in, and after the handbrake was re-programmed and it was given a free safety check and car wash, I collected my shiny car (it doesn’t get washed very often) with thoughts of recalls on my mind.

Should I be angry with Renault, or pleased that, having identified a risk, it was up-front about the problem and acted to put it right?

Recalls are only voluntary

Obviously, we’d all like it if manufacturers made sure there weren’t any problems in the first place, but the reality is, they can’t. Most will have heard about Toyota’s recent brake problems and even the mighty Ferrari recently recalled its 458 Italia model after reports that five of the supercars caught fire.

Some makers appear to recall readily, dealing with problems openly. Others (naming no names) seemingly resist acknowledging issues, denying culpability for as long as possible.

This is only possible because in the UK the recall system is a voluntary code – it’s left to the manufacturer to decide if an issue is a safety critical one. Currently, there’s no mechanism in place to force a recall.

One solution would be a mandatory recall system, like in the US – where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers reported problems and can force a manufacturer to recall. This system takes the decision-making away from ‘interested parties’ who will consider things like bad publicity and recall costs.

Safety is paramount

I think manufacturers should be praised, not slated for being open and recalling cars if they find a problem. And there isn’t a maker out there who can guarantee they won’t ever find an issue after the car’s already on the market.

Plus, I don’t believe all makers are being open about the safety issues they find. I’m sure some actively hide critical problems, brushing them under the carpet to avoid bad publicity.

For them, I think the only answer is to establish an independent arbitrator that can investigate and judge reported problems. It could then force manufactures to take remedial action according to independently assessed risk, regardless of cost or publicity implications.

Otherwise our safety is in the hands of profiteering manufacturers, whose main concern is paying the shareholder dividend.

Comments
Guest
pickle says:
5 September 2010

I think the NHTSA have got the right idea – shouldn’t we have a similar scheme?

Guest
Dave Johnson says:
10 September 2010

I would be more inclined to buy a car from a manufacturer who does recall vehicles rather than the so say upgrade when you take car in for a service. This also applies to faulty components not necessarily to do with safety. I have had 3 out of 4 ignition coils changed at different times on my BMW – the dealer said there was a fault with these coils but was not allowed to change them until they actually fail. No doubt the next one will be when the car is out of warranty and I will be asked to pay for this fault.

Guest

My Renault Scenic had this problem in December 2009, twice the handbrake came on while I was driving and Renault fixed it for an amazing fee of £670.00. When I received my recall notice this month I phoned them and told them about it happening already, and the cost of the repair, and asked if there was any chance of a refund, but I was told that the fault in my Scenic was different from the recall fault, even though it is described as causing exactly the same problem I had, so no refund. Considering it is costing £10,000,000 for them to recall all these cars surely £670 is a paltry figure to bother about. I will never buy Renault cars ever again, they have so many problems.

Guest

I have read with interest the comment made by the Renault customer as we have a citroen picasso and we have exactly the same problem the parking brake comes on whilst driving and has caused a few near misses. My husband was driving on the M5 when the car lost all power and every light imaginable came on. It’s been in the garage 10 times prior to this incident where they claimed they couldn’t find a fault. It’s back in the garage at the moment has when pulling away from the roundabout nothing happened. New software has been downloaded. This is aswell as the headlight blowing 3 times, windows not closing, doors not locking, heating not working. I have contacted Citroen customer services on numerous occassions and their response was well what do you want Citroen to do for you !

I have watched with interest all other manufacturers come forward and recall faulty cars, I am amazed that Citroen have as yet not come forward with this issue as I’ve seen on internet forums that we are not alone.

Guest

Well, BMW has just announced a recall of around 350,000 cars worldwide due to brake issues. Apparently this was completely voluntary and not led by any accidents. The recall affects V8 and V12-powered BMW 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series, and Rolls-Royce models produced between 2001 and 2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11452486

This affects over 10,000 UK cars and almost 200,000 in the US. However, as our motoring editor Richard Headland points out, it doesn’t look like this affects the most popular 6-cylinder engines, so most BMW owners will be able to sleep easy.

Guest

going by my own experience any problem that the makers are aware of, should be recalled.just this week my grand scenic,had a near fire! in my offside back window,my car “THANK GOD”. my car was parked up out side my house.IN speaking to RENAULT,support they were aware of a problem with the window motor.And had extend the warranty up to 6years and cover 75%of thecost and labour,and parts for a further year.So do the makers wait untill the problems are reported ? or recall the vehicles, as soon as possible.I

Guest

Another voluntary recall, this time from Lexus. It’s issued recalls on its IS, GS and RX models after finding a potential brake fluid leak. around 15,400 cars are expected to be recalled in the UK, affecting models built between February 2003 and November 2005. Lexus says there haven’t been any reported accidents. Playing too safe?

http://www.which.co.uk/news/2010/10/lexus-recalls-over-17000-uk-cars-234250/

Guest

Another day, another recall. This time Nissan has recalled 2.1 million cars worldwide because of an ignition problem. Apparently there no reported accidents, so it was completely voluntary… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11641425