QOTD: Does Anyone Care About Recalls?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
qotd does anyone care about recalls

Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry.

Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all the recalls. It had, at the most, three. This is what used to pass for a high-recall vehicle.

No longer.

In today’s climate, cars are getting recalled all the time. Left and right. Cats and dogs. Every single day there’s a new automotive recall. I just got a recall for my 10-year-old SUV of which I’m the third owner. Nobody is safe.

The funny thing is, the sheer number of recent recalls has sort of desensitized everyone to the recall problem. It used to be when you got a recall notice, you were seriously concerned about safety and worried about your vehicle’s ability to drive down the street without something happening like the vehicle launching you into space because the supplier had unintentionally built 2,400 units with an ejector seat.

But in today’s world, we’ve seen it all. Toyota recalling millions of cars for floor mats and pedal issues. Chevrolet recalling tens of millions of cars for ignition switch problems. Honda recalling every car it has ever manufactured for faulty airbags, including a wide range of cars that didn’t have airbags, because Takata was putting explosive charges in the speedometer.

I think the result is that people just don’t care about recalls anymore.

I noticed this because I’ve started running a lot of Carfax reports over the last few months. I’ve paid for a subscription and I’ve started running reports on a wide range of cars, including vehicles on sale, vehicles I see on the street, vehicles I see on Craigslist. Anything, really. And what I’ve learned: an enormous number of them have open recalls.

What I think happens is people are starting to disregard recall notices more and more because they’re just coming so often. If you have any modern, popular vehicle, you might have four or five recalls currently outstanding, all of which will have parts reach dealers at a different time. That door lock recall? Oh, we’ll have parts in August. The brake spindle bladder? Parts won’t come in until October. But by then, we’ll be out of parts for the door lock recall. Better come in twice.

The interesting thing about this is, the latest climate of recalls has made it so oft-recalled cars are almost entirely unnoticeable. It used to be that if you were thinking about buying a car, and you learned it had been recalled a few times, you wondered if maybe you should consider something else. Somewhere else. Some other brand that isn’t making the kind of death trap that gets recalled a few times.

But now, you see a car that’s been recalled a few times, and you sort of expect it. What hasn’t been recalled, you think. And then you buy it, and you forget all about the recall, because God knows you’re going to get ten more notices in the mail until it’s time to dump it on the next poor sap.

And so I ask: does anyone care about recalls? Do you?

Me, I worry a bit about recalls. When I got my recall notice, I grew a little concerned, because I know this is a safety thing. No, it might not be affecting me right now, but if we’ve moved to the point where they’re doing a recall, it might affect me soon. So I’m a little cautious with these things.

But should I even be worried? Are cars actually made worse than they once were, and that’s why there are so many recalls? Or are automakers just scared of liability issues, so they’re being more cautious?

The public certainly seems to think it’s the second option, based on just how many recalls they aren’t going in for. Me, I’m not so sure. I made sure to ask about my recall the last time my car was at the dealer.

Their response? “Oh, those parts haven’t come in yet.”

Ahh, recalls. Maybe I’ll just forget about it.

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4 of 41 comments
  • El Hombre El Hombre on Jul 10, 2015

    2005 Vibe, get a recall for the ECU. It's had a 6 year test drive by that point, I figure I got a good one and have a higher chance of getting a turd with the new one. So it's still running the original one. And the danger of a bad ECU; the engine quits. Just like when you run out of gas, or the fuel pump fails, or one of vital sensors goes tits up. That GM ignition switch recall....you probably shouldn't be driving if you can't handle a car after the engine dies.

  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Jul 11, 2015

    Not in my case. I have been fighting that asinine ignition switch on my 05 ION for 10 years. 4 replacement switches including the most recent "recall" replacement and two PassLock sensors in the console at the parking pawl and the key still gets stuck in the ignition switch. Power steering recall: the light has come on twice in 10 years. And since the replacement ignition still keeps the key, there's a secondary recall to fix that recall. Screw it. I'll just keep diddling the little button underneath the steering wheel and get the key out. Saturn and GM's Saturn Authorized Service Providers have never been able to correct this. Why would I let them mess with my perfectly functional steering system ? I might get around to it this summer. Or not. Nice to be vindicated about that POS ignition switch, though.

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