In April this year, 34 lakh cars were recalled across the world by four Japanese automakers ”Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda” to repair faulty airbags that were supplied to them by a single company, Takata Corporation. While this is for the par in other countries, vehicle recalls are still a novelty in India, which witnessed its first major one in July last year, when Ford Motors recalled 1.28 lakh cars.
This was a deviation from the earlier practice, where customers were informed directly about faulty parts as companies feared bad publicity. While India does not have an official vehicle recall policy, Ford took the step after a voluntary recall process initiated by the apex body of automakers, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), the same month.
Siam's guidelines state that a car manufacturer should recall vehicles if defects are detected within seven years of the date of manufacture. Car companies should provide information about recalls not just to the customers but also the government. Nearly 2 lakh cars and 11,500 bikes have been recalled in the country since Siam's voluntary recall code was adopted.
In the past month alone, three carmakers ”Nissan, Toyota and Renault ”have announced the recall of about 30,000 cars for various faults. Siam's guidelines are for a voluntary recall and it is up to the car manufacturer to decide whether the number of affected vehicles is sufficient to justify such a recall. Considering the cost involved and the impact a recall has on the brand image, some companies may be reluctant to announce one.
This is why the government is contemplating a nodal body, which will administer safety and other issues for the automobile industry. A government-mandated recall policy will make legal compliance more stringent and also impose a penalty on carmakers who opt for a recall. The penalty could be at par with globally.
Does a recall mean that the quality is poor?
Most recalls occur when a car company notices several instances of component failure or breakage at its service centres. The company evaluates whether the part needs to be replaced and then announces a recall. Typically, the problem crops up only for certain batches of the component, based on which the vehicles having those parts are recalled. Usually, the faulty part is small, which is why it may not show up while the vehicle is rigorously tested before being sold.
Even if the component clears all the tests carried out to ensure that it performs well, it may fail during usage because testing does not replicate all driving situations or conditions. This is why some cars have been recalled almost 10 years after they were sold (see table). However, this does not mean that you have a poor quality product. Almost all big manufacturers have recalled cars at some point, whether in India or some other country.
According to industry estimates, almost every fourth car sold in the world has been recalled for safety and quality concerns at some point in its lifecycle. Most recalls are a precautionary measure to avoid failure. The probability of your vehicle suffering a catastrophic failure is remote. For instance, when Ford recalled the Figo and Classic models, only 17,655 units of the 1.28 lakh cars actually needed the replacement.
What should the owner do?
To start with, what you don't need to do is pay up. When a company announces a recall, all parts related to the recall are replaced free of cost. This is done at the company's service centres, which have prior information on the specific cars that are part of the recall. There may be instances when some other parts, which are not faulty, may need to be replaced because of the defective element. Though these secondary parts may not be covered in the recall, the automaker usually bears the extra cost.
The time taken to fix a problem may vary, depending on the constituents to be replaced, and is announced by the company while asking for the recall. Some service centres may even provide alternate transport till the problem is fixed, but this is usually at the dealer level and companies have nothing to do with it. While a car is valid for a recall within seven years of its manufacture, you may have to keep an eye out for announcements if you are the second or third owner.
This is because car companies only have details of the first owner and may not be able to contact you. However, as companies also announce the period of manufacture for the cars, this should not be a problem for you. While the service centre will replace the needed parts for free, there are certain conditions they have put in place. Violating any of these means that you may have to shell out for the repair work from your own pocket.
Some of these include installing accessories that are not approved by the manufacturer, not maintaining the vehicle properly, using it for a purpose other than that it was designed for, carrying out unauthorised repair or alteration, or overloading the car.
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