Quality Indicator?

Are TSB’s and recall’s valid indicators of car quality? For example, the '05 Sienna has had 29 TSB’s and 1 recall. The '05 Odyssey has had 129 TSB’s and 5 recalls. Does this mean that the Sienna is better quality or that Odyssey is more customer friendly?

No, it does not. TSBs are issued regularly as service advisories, most unrelated to any problem. There’s even one on the procedure for getting a new VIN plate.

Recalls, while safety related, need to be evaluated individually. My Scion tC had a recall to put a piece of plastic laminate on the glass roof spoiler because some had shattered when hit by foreign objects. That’s not the same magnitude as, for example, the recall they issued on my '72 Vega for the rear wheels falling off.

The only real way to determine quality is the follow-up owner surveys after 3-5 years. Some outfits like Consumer Reports and J.D. Powers like to do these things. Their results are not gospel, but they do root out the models that are exceptionably good or notoriously bad.

The TSBs do not necessarily indicate a defect. They generally are advice to service technicians on the best way to handle a certain trivial problem, one that may not respond to standard methods.

Recalls can happen to any car, even the best. Get past the recall and you may have an exceptionally reliable car that will last forever.

the recall they issued on my '72 Vega for the rear wheels falling off.

Why do I get the feeling this is NOT a joke?

It’s not a joke. The rear axles were retained via the common C clips in the carrier case method. The C clips would work their way out and the entire axle would slide right out if the housing. GM’s solution was to check, under recall, the axial play in the axle to some spec they had. I had mine checked at two different dealerships. It met spec. It came out anyway. Fortunately, I was going about 2 mph in a parking lot when mine came out. My distinct impression was that the “excessive axial play” excuse was total unmitigated balogna.

More TSBs and recalls generally mean a more problematic car, but that’s not etched in stone.

What you would need to do is go through the list of TSBs and separate the ones involving mechanical items (including electrics, fuel, transmissions, brakes, suspensions, interior, paint, etc.) from the irrelevant ones that may only involve warranty labor rate changes, paperwork issues, different methods of repairing something, etc.

Recalls are considered a PR hit for auto makers and they usually fight tooth and nail trying to avoid issuing them. Sometimes things that should be under a recall are not.

It probably was. The dealerships were probably just wanting to see how many people were crazy enough to buy a Vega in the first place and the mechanics were probably taking bets when the car would crumble.