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.