2013 Toyota Pruis C

Manufacturers get away with recalls

Customers don't seem to punish brands or models that have frequent recalls. A recent survey reveals how drivers feel.

The news is filled with vehicle recall announcements every day. It seems as if every manufacturer has recalls on all models. One would think that the stories would be widely ignored, but we at Torque News track what stories readers are most interested in and recall stories are popular. That may be due to the fact that a recall alert on a car you don’t own is just background noise, but on the car you own it is of high importance. Recently, Swapalease, the lease matchmaker company based in Cincinnati Ohio, conducted a survey of hundreds of its customers to determine how they felt about recalls on a specific brand and the results were interesting.

Recalls are conducted by manufacturers as a result of the discovery that something safety related needs to be addressed in a car they made. Warranty has nothing to do with the issue. Any vehicle found to be defective in a way that can cause a safety risk will be recalled – and immediately. Toyota recently settled a suit regarding a delayed recall for billions of dollars. Even brands that build their marketing campaign around safety, like Volvo, have been caught dragging their heels on recalls.

Some recalls might seem almost funny, like the recent Porsche recall for tailpipes that could fall off. This elicits images of the bad old days when cars shed parts and we all thought that was the way it would always be. Other recalls are no laughing matter, like the new Ford Escape being recalled multiple times for risks of fire so severe the manufacturer was actually advising customers to not drive their cars, but to park it and call the dealer to come get the car. There is a point at which a car might be branded a lemon if recalls get too out of hand.

Interestingly, the recall champion of 2012 was Toyota. We find this interesting because Toyota is also the runaway quality champion when it comes to customer surveys like the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study and Consumer Reports Quality Survey. Toyota also dominates the Kelly Blue Book Resale Value Awards. Given this irony, let’s take a look at the recent Swapalease survey and see how drivers feel about recalls.

Q: Do you feel there are more vehicle recalls today compared with 10 or 20 years ago?

44.3% - Some. It’s somewhat noticeable, but it’s a part of our car culture.
24.8% - About the same. I haven’t noticed a change in volume.
24.3% - Many. It seems like there’s a recall every day now.
6.7% - Other

Q: Do all the recalls today make you nervous about the cars on the road?

58.0% - Not at all. It’s just a part of regular life now.
32.4% - Somewhat. I’m keeping my eye on it but won’t change my driving habits.
5.3% - Very nervous. I’m questioning how carmakers are building their cars.
4.3% - Other

Q: Do you pay attention when a recall is announced?

41.7% - Often. I try to keep an eye on what is happening with the recalls.
34.0% - Somewhat. I’m aware there are recalls but don’t pay close attention.
17.5% - Very much. I study every recall to know which car and what went wrong.
4.9% - None. It happens all the time today; what’s the point?
1.9% - Other

Q: Do recalls affect your purchase or lease decision?

40.4% - Of course. I will research more than usual before making a decision.
30.3% - Somewhat. I’ll ask a few questions, but I have other priorities when deciding.
18.3% - Not at all. It’s all about the features, color and price when I shop for a car.
8.7% - Very much. I will never buy or lease from these carmakers again.
2.4% - Other

Q: Toyota had a major recall in the recent past. Has that affected your opinion of Toyota?

49.8% - No, Toyota still makes a good car.
29.2% - Yes, I’m less likely to consider buying a Toyota than previously.
16.7% - Did not really matter. I would never consider buying a Toyota even prior to the recall.
1.0% - I am not aware of the Toyota recall.
3.3% - Other

Clearly there is not a groundswell of opposition to car makers for recalls, and perhaps that makes sense. There are so many, and they are often so obscure that people seem to be tuning them out. We asked Scot Hall, the Executive Vice President of Operations at Swapalease, if the survey results were a surprise. His reply was that they were. He though more people would consider recalls a factor when buying a new car. That would have been this writer’s assumption as well. The Toyota question at the end reveals that the majority of customers won’t really even consider a recent recall when making a brand or model selection.

For more surveys like this, please click this link. Comment below if you think recalls would affect your next car buying choice and why.

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