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Thursday, March 12, 2009
This is not a pro / against Toyota entry. But Toyota is not alone in being accused of covering-up / ignoring product recalls. Most car manufacturers, however noble their corporation PR machinery wants to project, is guilty of the same. I won't be naive enough to believe that Toyota's domestic arch rival Honda is any more trasparent when it comes to product defects / recall.
Recalls are a major concern and the cost could easily run into millions of dollars, if one considers the man hours taken to identify affected vehicles by their production data / VIN plates, time taken to contact the respective owners, loss of productivity at the service centers to check and replace the affected parts, logistics of replacing faulty parts in stock and the worst of all - hours spent pushing the blame between OEM parts suppliers and the individual departments within the car manufacturer.
Then you have the problem of managing the brand reputation as a result of recalls. In the 90s, the image of Mitsubishi Motors took a serious beating when it was uncovered by Japanese authorities that its managers have been covering up safety related defects in their vehicles for almost 20 years. The company failed to report the problems to the Japanese government, as required under Japanese road transport regulation. In the USA, manufacturers are more ready to admit to defects and issue a recall because of a strong consumer rights advocacy movement among the American public. There is a so-called "Lemon Law" requiring manufacturers to buy back a faulty vehicle should repeated efforts by the manufacturer fails to resolve any recurrent defects. In certain states, the law even covers beyond the manufacturer's warranty period of the vehicle.
In less developed ASEAN region markets closer to home, there is no such regulation and disputes between the buyer and manufacturer can only be settled in a consumer tribunal court. Without any regulation compelling manufacturers to owe up, most car makers in the region simply issue a TSB (technical service bulletin) to its service centers. Vehicles with defects are only fixed when the come to the service centers for regular servicing. Sometimes, the owner will be notified of a necessary additional job (additional time required) but sometimes they are not. In certain cases, manufacturer will contact the owner directly, often in some funny sounding terms like "product improvement / product update / special service campaign" requesting them to bring the car in for an inspection. But this is only possible if the vehicle is bought brand new, as there is no way for a company to update their records whenever a vehicle is sold. This reminds me of Proton's recent recall exercise for the Savvy (rear wheel bearing) and Gen.2 and Satria Neo (jack) via announcement in the mass media. Given the popularity of Protons in the Malaysian car market, it is highly likely that many of these cars have been bought used, and there is no way for Proton to contact these group of owners. The public needs to understand that there is no such thing as a 100% defect free car plant, even Lexus and Mercedes-Benz issues numerous recalls every now and then (of course not in ASEAN developing markets). Manufacturers should be acknowledged for being an honest and responsible corporate entity to admit a fault and to rectify the problem at no cost, even when the existing archaic laws don't compel them to do so.
This is why it is important to return to an authorized service center for your regular maintenance. Until our consumer protection laws are strengthened, this is the next best thing you can do.
Posted by AutoIndustrie at 10:19 PM