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Why Do Manufacturers Recall Only A Few Cars? Here’s One Theory

Why would a manufacturer recall just two cars? There are several reasons including good public relations and good customer relations. In the long run, the recall, as tiny is it might be, just makes sense.
Posted: February 13, 2017 - 11:14PM
Author: Marc Stern

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If you were to look at the latest Volkswagen safety recall announced Monday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) website, you would find a new notification sitting there that applies to 2017 Jettas.

The recall number is 17V070000, and it deals with engines and engine cooling. In itself, there’s nothing particularly unusual with an engine problem; they occur from time to time. Automotive engines are, after all, rather complex devices.

How To Cast An Engine

At first, they are simply empty castings. It's not until the form into which molten metal is poured to make the motor is cracked away, and the block is cleaned up, deburred and polished that the engine begins to become something other than an empty metal shell.

It takes many moving pieces to make a block into a driving device. The number of moving parts that make up the standard engine and powertrain runs up to about 20,000. It includes all of the pieces you probably have heard about – valves and lifters, camshaft, cylinders and the like.

When finally assembled, the engine heads off to the assembly line to which it has already been assigned to await its insertion into a waiting vehicle. By now, things are getting serious for the engine. Not only does it have its thousands of parts installed, but it also has taken on a few more items such as hoses, belts, transmissions, driveshaft or half-shafts, manifold, exhaust system and more.

At its heart, though, is the same humble casting that just a short while before was a pool of molten metal. Sometimes, the cast can go wrong. Who knows why? It could be uneven heating that causes weakness. Or, it might be a mold that is slightly out of spec so that an oil gallery may not be broad enough to pass oil (oil has a significant role in engine cooling, as well as lubrication), forming a hotspot that might weaken the casting. Or it may just be that the casting may be a bit "out of true." In other words, when bolted together there may be a small hairline problem that could cause a weakness in the casting.

As you can see, there are many reasons – these are only a few – causes of a casting failure. It is the reason for the latest VW Jetta recall. It applies to only two – that's right two – models, whose owners have likely been notified by now (or if they haven't been notified they soon will be).

Seems Counter-Intuitive

It might seem rather insane to do a recall of a mass-market vehicle like the Jetta, equipped with the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder block for only two vehicles. However, it isn't, by a long shot.

You may have – or you may not have heard – of the old clichés: “A stitch in time saves nine;” or perhaps “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Both can be applied here easily.

By recalling the two vehicles now, the VW dealers can also be put on alert that this problem does exist and that if they find the other Jettas, whose blocks are exhibiting the same issues, then the can prevent the problem from expanding by notifying headquarters and having the offending engines replaced.

Not only is it great public relations, but it is also great owner relations, as well. By replacing the block – if authorized by the factory – not only does it look extremely proactive to the public, but the automaker also is pro-customer. The owner relations piece goes without saying, as it is just a sound way to do business.

Of course, this does not imply that there are any more than the two blocks covered by the recall out there because there are likely not. It is saying that dealers and the factory can look for the conditions that created the two and if there are other vehicles out there, they can be taken care of. And, it also means that blocks made on the same engine line will be given better quality control to prevent future problems from happening. It is all good. (Imagine if Volkswagen had taken this approach to Dieselgate, instead of out and out lying about it. Not only would consumers feel warmer toward the automaker, but so would regulators. Indeed, it might have prevented the whole grisly mess in the first place. It would also have saved VW at least $25 billion – and still climbing.)

Recalls Have Many Reasons
That's the thing about recalls in general. Not only do they show that manufacturers and regulators are proactive – recalls are initiated by the automaker, not NHTSA, while the agency then follows them after the announcement – but they also show consumers that automakers care about safety.

That’s why the recall program is a win-win for all concerned.

As to the rest of recall 17V070000, owners will be given a choice by VW; VW will repurchase the vehicle or free block replacement for the Jetta.

The engine blocks in the vehicles involved were incorrectly cast, said the announcement on the agency's website, If a failure occurs, the wheels will suddenly lock, causing a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash.

For further information, you can contact VW Customer Service at 1-800-893-5298 and ask about recall 10F4. Or, you can contact NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236, or you can visit the website at The recall number is 17V070000.

Source: NHTSA

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