/ Motoring

Recalling cars doesn’t make them sub-standard

Man inspecting car

Three cheers for Toyota, the car manufacturer that is willing to recall its faulty cars. But why can’t others follow their lead instead of fobbing customers off when their cars may have serious issues?

Every time I hear about another Toyota recall I want to cheer. But instead, my heart sinks because I know the well-meaning car company will be slated yet again by the media for selling sub-standard cars.

You may say it serves them right – after all they were caught out by the American recalls agency, seriously dragging their feet on three separate occasions from issuing car safety recalls.

But they’ve paid their dues (more than $48 million in fines in fact), and are now merrily shouting recall over the slightest defect. In my mind, that’s very laudable, especially in the UK, where our lax system allows carmakers to call the shots over whether or not to issue a recall.

Car faults fobbed off

At Which? Car we regularly hear from car owners whose vehicles have suffered what they believe are design or manufacturing defects that could put their lives at risk.

Yet when they’ve approached the carmaker, they say they’ve been fobbed off with excuses that the faults don’t meet the right level of safety hazard, or the cars are still within their legal limits.

This was the case with both the previous generation BMW Mini and Vauxhall Meriva, both of which suffered with intermittent loss of power steering, terrifying unsuspecting owners. Yet, because a car can still technically be driven without power steering, the carmakers chose not to recall them and fix the problem for owners free of charge.

VOSA needs to earn its keep

And the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA), the toothless government agency that oversees recalls, sided with them, instead of using its power to force them to take action. That’s the bit that really niggles me – why waste millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money employing these people to do nothing?

We’ll be doing our bit by asking VOSA to meet with us and disclose information on just what it does when it receives complaints about specific car defects. We also want it to make the process of complaining easier and more accessible.

What do you think of the UK’s car recall system? If you agree with us, then maybe you’d like to help make VOSA earn its keep by complaining to it every time you have a problem with your car that the manufacturer refuses to fix, and demanding that it does something about it.

Mubbisher Ahmed says:
28 April 2011

I think the car recall system operated by VOSA in the UK is a joke. Over the last few years, for example, BBC’s Watchdog programme reported on Vauxhall cars having numerous problems with their cars, yet none were ever recalled (Vauxhall did do some recalls but VOSA never did):



The system needs a serious overhaul that takes into account and develops or revises thresholds for when recalls happen. For example, in the above examples, 000’s of cars were effected but VOSA was not recalling any cars, even when programmes like Watchdog highlighted the problems.

John says:
28 April 2011

Speaking of VOSA the rules state that windscreen washers do not have to work on buses on local services (50km) also demisters & heating systems. Tyres only have to have a minimum of 1mm tread whereas it is 1.6 for cars. I think it is time they changed their ways.
Vosa needs to upgrade & get sensible! Nothing to do with recalls but thought you might like the information.

pickle says:
29 April 2011

Yes – I agree VOSA certainly needs a shake-up. Very glad to see Which? is on to it.

Arthur Boon says:
4 May 2011

I agree that many manufacturers fail to accept responsibity for “known” faults with their cars. For example, my sister had to have the cylinder head with valves, guides and springs replaced when her VW Golf had done less than 10,000 miles and was just out of warranty. Several local garages told that “sticking” valves was a comment “fault” with the 2006 model but VW refused to make a contribution to the cost because the car had recently been serviced by a local garage that specialised in VW but was not franchised. If Garages know that certain models have “inherent” faults they should be encouraged to report that fact to VOSA for them to take action.

Phil says:
13 May 2011

The Americans also have system of punitive damages. This discourages manufacturers from deciding recalls are too expensive. My Vectra rolled away. Luckily it didn’t hit anyone or anything, but people could have been (and may have been) killed by this common handbrake design fault. Of course I’d like to see a VOSA warning having the force the sort of legal force that it could have, but I’d also like to see real penalties – in the millions of pounds for deliberate stonewalling, as was handed down to Ford for their cynical acceptance of the dangers in the Pinto. Perhaps the new corporate manslaughter laws might help here.

Dan says:
7 July 2011

I recently owned a Peugeot 407 estate that had just passed its MOT test three weeks earlier when it was recalled to the local dealer for brake vacuum pump fault,when I collected the car I was told by the dealer that it also needed the flexible hoses to the front brakes replaced.When i got the car home I removed the wheel and was horrified to see that the rear of the pipe was rubbing against the suspension upright,I contacted Peugeot,who,due to the mileage of the car(100k miles),where not interested despite its obvious safety implications of complete brake failure.when I purchased the replacement brake pipes I noticed that the mountings had been changed to reroute the pipe away from the suspension.I contacted VOSA to make them aware of the situation and was sent a form to outline the problem,I was called by a VOSA representative two weeks later to say that they would not be taking any action on this problem as it should be picked up during routine servicing.I pointed out that the vehicle had recently passed its MOT test and the issue was not evident unless specifically checked for(the dealer was probably aware of the issue), this made no difference to VOSA’s decision.I subsequently found out as has previously been stated that VOSA have never forced the manufacturers to recall a vehicle and am alarmed at their handling of this serious issue.

Sludgeguts says:
7 January 2013

I heard someone say they would never buy a toyota – always going wrong so having to be recalled.
Really? I would rather buy a product where I know the company will admit their fault & rectify them for free.

My wofe owned a vauxhall, the electric motor on the power steering went as she was driving along a motorway – scary stuff, fortunately motorways are straight. When I googled the fault I came across many thousands of unhappy drivers – all with the same problem – yet vauxhall refused to accept there was a problem.
In fact, one moron even said that we managed before power steering, it’s a small car so the steering isn’t that heavy.
Hmmm, before power steering, wheels were thinner, less rubber making contact. If the motor ges, you are not only trying to turn a wheel with more grip, you are also fighting against the mechanism of the power steering.

Phil says:
7 January 2013

I agree completely with Sludgeguts. I feel quite angry that Toyota are being punished by public opinion for trying to do the right thing. Vauxhall just deny everything. My Vectra rolled away because of a handbrake fault that they took years to acknowledge. Luckily my car didn’t hit anyone, but someone could have been killed. I don’t think Renault every acknowledged the flying-up bonnet problem that was featured on Watchdog. There are numerous others. Toyota are recalling cars before the problem causes death. Well done them. I get the feeling that most manufacturers do the maths and conclude that if someone sues, and if someone is successful, it will still be cheaper than the recall. Plus there is the issue of people like the moron that Sludgeguts reports who see a recall as the mark of a substandard product, rather than good customer care.