Progression of a RecallWhen a recall is announced, we tend to expect immediate results, and we become impatient if we perceive that a manufacturer is purposely dragging its feet. But the truth is that auto manufacturers want to handle recalls as quickly as possible in order to minimize negative press -- and get back to focusing their attention on building and selling vehicles.
Lags do sometimes occur before repairs can take place, often because the specific cause of a problem is not always easy to identify. And once identified, it can still be a challenge to devise a solution and implement it on a dealer-wide basis. The repair must be tested and approved, and in many cases, parts must be manufactured. Tech instructions must be written and verified. Finally, anything required for the repair must be distributed to the dealer network.
We've all heard about Toyota's recent recall issues. I'll start with a disclaimer -- I was a Toyota service manager for about 15 years, or slightly less than half of the time I've spent in the auto business. But I try to be objective about repair issues, regardless of the brand involved.
It disturbs me that the media and some government officials seem to have painted a bullseye on Toyota's back, with some agency staff members making statements such as park your car and call the dealer. Do those people have the technical knowledge or experience to make that kind of judgment? I doubt it. And while I sure don't want to make light of the situation, the problem has not affected a huge number of vehicles, and in most cases has developed over time rather than suddenly appearing.
Toyota has maintained high quality standards for a long time, and has worked hard to become a top manufacturer, but lately we've heard "they've grown too fast" or "they're taking too long to fix the cars" or "I won't buy another Toyota because my car had a problem."
I've even heard media comments this week that question the quality standards at Japanese factories. Those people need to check their facts, because although it's rarely mentioned in the press, a hefty percentage of Toyotas are built in the United States, and the numbers have grown steadily since the 1980s. Those American factories have consistently produced vehicles that meet Toyota's quality requirements.
Toyota certainly isn't perfect, but a look at recent industry recalls revealed that it hasn't had more problems than other manufacturers. New technologies create new challenges, and all automakers are experiencing various issues as they develop and improve their lineups. To pick out one company and blast it daily in the media seems more like a witch hunt than reporting the news.
It will be interesting to see how quickly owners take their cars and trucks in for repair. There's always a significant group of people who do it right away, but it isn't unusual for manufacturers to send reminder after reminder to others. Like Ford, who's still asking owners to come in for a problem that has the potential of turning vehicles into a fireball, even if they're parked, with the ignition off.
It's important for the government to monitor and investigate issues that affect our autos, and make sure manufacturers handle them as quickly as possible, but most automakers take safety issues very seriously and want to resolve them quickly. If a government agency doesn't feel the issue is being addressed properly, it should discuss its concerns with the manufacturer, and not use the press to create panic.