Ask The Best And Brightest: How Do You Handle Recall And Service Bulletins?

Phillip Thomas
by Phillip Thomas
ask the best and brightest how do you handle recall and service bulletins

Since arriving at TTAC, I have been continually challenged and impressed by the B&B. The knowledge, wisdom, and rather civil discourse that arrives in response to the so-called journalism I produce is awe inspiring, often. Thank you, B&B. I’ve also been tasked with handling the GM recall story, given my technical background and my familiarity with GM’s processes at the dealer level – but today, I want to turn the floor over to you.

A recent New York Times article, raised the notion of GM’s seemingly nonchalant responses to quality issues with their vehicles. It’s been my goal in covering this matter to be as objective possible and present as many primary sources as possible. Getting carried away with a story like this is easy, and in my opinion, the NYT does just that. There’s little to no context for the reader, and most people are unfamiliar with recall processes for any OEM, let alone GM.

The Times analysis of service bulletins was limited to General Motors.

The article is centered around the letter from the NHTSA’s Frank Borris discussing GM’s responses to various safety recalls over recent years, a letter that apparently that came at GM executive Michael Robinson like a bolt out of the blue. Excluding the Cobalt ignition debacle, was GM truly surprised, rolling with the status quo until caught? Or are they particularly unique in their behavior?

Can we sit and point fingers at GM solely, or is this a common occurrence in daily operations at other manufacturers? My dealer experience ends with GM. Where does your experience begin? Work at a dealership with another automaker? Maybe you work in a similar engineering field, and have fought the wrath of bean counters? How do the other OEMs (Toyota, Ford, Honda…) mitigate product problems in practice, especially in the face of safety vs. costs? And how do they respond to field reports about product flaws?

Anonymous stories and tips can be emailed to Editors at ttac dot com

Join the conversation
4 of 38 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Apr 22, 2014

    When my son bought a CPO Sonata last year (from a Hyundai dealer), I was surprised to find that this dealer hadn't performed ANY of the 4 recall campaigns on the vehicle. They were nice people, but this seemed pretty negligent, and the issue only came up because I asked. Instead, I took it to a dealer closer to me, and was very well treated, with the work done in just a day. It's worth asking the question when you buy a used car.

    • See 1 previous
    • FormerFF FormerFF on Apr 22, 2014

      @Exfordtech When I was car shopping a couple of months ago, I visited a very large BMW dealer that had at least 100 CPO BMWs. I don't know that they did any reconditioning at all. Some of the cars had body damage. If I'd bought one of those cars, other than having the CPO warranty, I'd figure it was like buying a used car from an individual, and that I'd budget $500 - $1000 for bringing the car up to spec.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Apr 23, 2014

    Being new to the Ford brand, I'm not impressed. My Escape suffered a sudden complete loss of power steering boost from the electric steering. I found this is a well-known, but not "common" problem. Obviously it is a serious matter with safety consequences. It is most common with '08 and '09 Escapes. Ford has known about this for years. Only recently has there been a TSB issued, and for the more minor of the two failures. The TSB covers replacement of a control module, while some instances of this, like mine, require costly replacement of the whole steering column assembly. I'm told Ford has had information about this failure that is on some level less public than TSB's. What bothers me is that Ford continues to be comfortable charging full rates for repairing a design defect that endangers their customers, while being unwilling to repair under extended warranty those that have failed, let alone come to the plate with a full recall. The longer Ford delays dealing with this problem, the worse they're going to look. Expanded recall programs mean manufacturers will be responsible for supporting their products longer and deeper. Inevitably that will require new car price increases, but it means better ownership experiences and greater customer safety. Makers that can design cars that don't fail will enjoy better reputations and lower costs. Maybe development funds will shift from gee-wiz headlight and taillight "art" and toward safety and durability improvements.

  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!
  • EBFlex For those keeping track, Ford is up to 24 recalls this year and is still leading the industry. But hey, they just build some Super Dutys that are error free. Ford even sent out a self congratulatory press release saying they built Super Duty’s with zero defects. What an accomplishment!
  • Norman Stansfield This is what you get when you run races to keep the cars bunched together for more excitement. F1 doesn't seem to have this problem after the first few laps.
  • SCE to AUX Too many cars = more wrecks. With today's speeds on essentially the same old track, starting with half the cars could reduce the congestion at the end. Or maybe it would increase the problem because the herd wouldn't thin early on.I say no overtime - finish at 500 miles and no more.