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Another Scary Recall - Where Is The Quality?

I just read about another recall. This one involves new GM vans. If you own one of these vehicles, you are basically told to park it away from any buildings, get out, and run like hell before it bursts into flames! You have to read this one:


Is it me, or are more and more recalls involving newer vehicles and more dangerous faults?

The issue is that everyone is hyper sensitive to recalls right now.
That one is caused by a fault with the alternator, not with the van itself, or with assembly by the factory workers.

And in this case, we are talking about a total of 5k vehicles, vs millions of vehicles with defective gas pedals and/or computer software programming.

Not even in the same ballpark.


Nothing is perfect. As vehicles become more and more complex there are bound to be some problems. Vehicles are not the only products recalled, either. Faulty alternators aren’t that scary.

Baby slings. Now that’s scary.

Just because there are more recalls in recent years than there were in an earlier era, that does not mean that modern cars are built less well than earlier ones or that they are less safe. In a similar fashion, just because more rapes and child molestations are reported nowadays, it does not mean that more rapes and molestations are occurring than in an earlier era. On the contrary, many incidents from years ago are only now coming to the attention of the general public.

In both cases, much is related to living in a more open society, as well as a more litigous society. Years ago, people were less likely to file suit against a company over a defective product, or against a priest or other sexual offender for his transgressions.

Nowadays, lawsuits over defective products are very common, thus leading manufacturers to try to avoid being put in that type of situation–UNLIKE many years ago. As just one example, every 1953 Buick that was equipped with power brakes had the potential to lose all braking power as a result of defective design of the booster. (IIRC, the booster could suck all fluid out of the master cylinder, due to its defective design.) However, no recall was ever issued, and–if memory serves me–only one or two suits were ever filed against GM, despite the fact that quite a few people were killed as a result of this defect.

What we are all observing has nothing to do with lessened quality, and everything to do with the modern public’s tendency to file product liability suits and manufacturers’ attempts to avoid the very costly settlements that can result from those lawsuits.

Considering the number of parts in a modern car, it’s a tribute to manufacturers we don’t have more problems. As long as car systems continue to get more complicated, expect more problems if you want the price to be reasonable…IMO, as the systems are combined, these problems will be fewer. Like electric drive motors used also for all braking and traction control with no transmission…etc.

5,000 Vans. That Doesn’t Scare Me As Much As Recalls Covering Millions Of Units, Several Models, And Several Model Years.

Some recalls are caught and taken care of almost immediately.

The later makes me wonder if somebody was asleep at the switch in a Rip Van Winkle scenerio or tried to kick the can down the road and hope it wouldn’t be noticed.

Some recalls cover only a couple hundred vehicles (probably some guy getting even with the boss on his last few weeks before retirement or something.).

I agree with others. I’m really surprised that with the complexity of modern cars that there aren’t more problems and recalls. We can probably thank some computer aided designing for that.


A recall, even one like this one, isn’t necessarily an indication of quality. “Quality” is such a subjective term. What does it mean to you? To me it means a car that can last a long time if it is properly cared for and that won’t leave me stranded. To someone else, “quality” might mean a car that looks nice and impresses people.

If you haven’t read it yet, [b]Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance[/b] is a good exploration of the meaning of “quality.”

You should also consider that you see many recalls that would not have happened 50 years ago, in spite of similar problems at the time. As in indicator, recalls might actually reflect a change in attitudes and procedures rather than a decline in quality.

The situation works like this: Faults are reported to NHTSA and the manufacturer and either the manufacturer intstitutes a recall or NHTSA recommends the recall and the manufacturer has the option of starting one. Usually they will initiate a recall to avoid increased libility by ignoring the government experts. It’s so new that it isn’t even in the NHTSA database yet.

I’d argue that there really aren’t more recalls or even more safety problems, just far more instantaeous communications and public exposure. My '72 Vega was the subject of numerous recalls, as was the Pinto of that era, but in those days only the truely dramatic recalls could compete for the valuable front page space in the newspapers or for time on the three TV channels. Vietnam and world politics, primarily the cold war, took precedence. In today’s world the media is dramatically different. I have only the every basic cable subscription and even I have about 60 channels. There’s no place for problems to hide anymore.

It’s nice to see GM took the initiative and decided to recall the few problem vehicles rather than have it blow up in their face, in more ways than one

edit: I like how the OP asked “where’s the quality” when so few vehicles have been recalled. Yet some people are saying that the multi-year, multi-vehicle lineup recall Toyota’s had is the one to be praised

Except for the few recalls that make news, the general public is completely unaware of the massive numbers of recalls that are issued every month.
From the springs in your door handle to a computer reprogramming for better emmisions, recalls are daily business here at the dealer level.

I think one of the signs of quality is the fact that the manufacturer is stepping up to the plate, calling everyone in, and fixing the potential issue pre-emptively.

It’s probably a supplier’s fault and not GM’s. But these things happen.

I work for an automotive supplier, and our parts undergo literally millions of cycles of torture-testing in about every conceivable situation that they are expected to encounter. And our warranty dept. is still kept busy.

I suppose my point is, there’s so many ways that things can go wrong, it’s impossible to cover every bet. Or it could be that they decided to skimp on something… who knows.

I think it’s obvious that GM didn’t do the proper amount of testing for this alternator, unless it was well designed and tested, but manufactured in another country to save a buck.

Fear generates numbers of people who watch the news, and therefore the number of people who watch commercials. If a lot of people can be made nervous about their safety, and convinced that the information they need is on a television station, then that TV station can make more money selling advertising time. So, fear equals profit.

We had an economic meltdown last year, and right after election day we heard more and more about the collapse of banks and then General Motors and Chrysler. Remember, media like TV and radio make a fortune off political advertising, and when election day was over, that cash flow stopped. In order to get more viewers and more revenue it was important to come up with new, exciting, scary stories. So we heard about failures and real estate busts and on and on.

Then car sales numbers went to very low levels. GM went bankrupt. No one can even explain where Chrysler went. You tell me what they are still making. Do they sell cars anymore? Anyway, Toyota was doing pretty well through all this, and you know that competitors had to do something. So, big noise about safety and danger and fear. It worked well. Lots of people are now afraid of their Camrys and Corollas. Toyota is offering deals to sell cars, and Ford is doing better.

But still, things are in turmoil, and you are watching cable TV news. Ain’t capitalism interesting?

Nothing sells like fear, and we are very creative in finding new things to be afraid of. I bet there will be a big consumer panic of some sort in the next couple of months, involving something that is really a trusted item, like McDonald’s hamburgers or toilet paper.

It’s not a conspiracy (never assume conspiracy when incompetence will explain things), it’s capitalism mixed with fear.

option 1: throw TV away :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s a combination of reasons for Recalls; more cars, more models, more info and in some cases severe nitpicking, high pressure fuel systems as compared to low pressure, a huge increase in the amount of electrics, higher powered alternators, etc, etc.

If you’re going to blame GM for bad engineering, improper testing, etc. then you should also be prepared to lay this argument off on every other car that is made or has been made, aircraft, pop-up toasters, electric tools, vacuum cleaners, etc.

Go into Wal Mart, Lowes, Sears, or whomever and look at the Recall board. You will find that fire hazards due to engineering is not solely confined to GM products. Black and Decker, Craftsman, Hoover, to name a few are also affected and if you will spend some time digging you will find that many other makes of cars are under Recall for fire and crash hazards. Toyota and Honda are not immune from this and neither is Ford.

OK4450, Do You Ever Check Out The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Site ?

Click on “Recalls and Product Safety News” and it takes you to a search area:

I got a new weed trimmer once from the manufacturer because I found that their trimmers were likely to lead to sudden unintended combustion, although mine was out of warranty.

If you’re bored sometime, have a look at some of the products in the listed categories.


GM has had bigger problems that were never officially recalled. Like the infamous stepper motor issue that causes instrument gauges to peg, stick or die. It affects almost every GM car and truck from 2003 to 2005. That’s millions of vehicles, but they were never forced to issue a recall. A class action lawsuit helped some owners fix the problem with a warranty extension, but most were left out to dry. Interesting info on the class action settlement at

My Lincoln Mark has an outstanding Recall on it right now for the cruise control disengagement switch and the FOMOCO letter I got would be pretty amusing if it wasn’t so serious.

The letter stated blah, blah, blah and advised me that I “should park my car away from anything flammable such as my home, trees, other vehicles, etc.” until the Recall has been performed.

Over the last few years that have been 2 homes in OK City that were badly damaged due to fires caused by this switch. Both vehicles (Ford Ranger and F-150) were in the garages at the time. One burnt the garage off and the other took much of the kitchen with it.