Created on Friday, 15 October 2010
In recent years, we've been inundated with recalls on consumer products, ranging from food and pharmaceuticals to children's toys and automobiles.
Some highly publicized recent examples: In 2008, a listeriosis outbreak in Ontario led to several deaths and the recall of meat products.
In late 2009 and early 2010, many automobile manufacturers' products were the subject of massive recalls, resulting from technical and mechanical issues.
In September, Fisher-Price recalled some 11 million children's toys because of the possibility that they could pose a health and safety risk.
When mass recall notices are issued for such items as baby cribs, food, drugs, appliances, clothing, even children's toys, the public is alerted through the media and government agencies' web sites. With these types of recalls, these means of communication serve a vital public service.
But (and this is an important distinction) the onus is on the consumer to learn about the recall and to take appropriate action. Consumers could be advised to discard the product, return it to the manufacturer for a possible refund, modification or exchange, and/or to cease using it altogether.
With automobiles, however, the recall process is much different. Ownership information of all new vehicles sold is registered with the manufacturer. Each province has a record of all registered owners for all licensed vehicles as well. This allows customers to be notified directly of any safety campaigns or recalls by the manufacturer.
The media and the government will usually make public announcements about automobile safety recalls and sometimes product enhancements. But our industry has a process in place. The manufacturer will always rigorously try to contact each owner about the problem and communicate steps about corrective measures.
Today, we witness more product recalls than in previous generations. So, are consumer products built to lower standards and is quality control more lax than before?
Certainly for the automobile industry, the answer is a resounding no. Vehicles today are built to higher standards than ever, and they are infinitely more complex. The same applies to airplanes, dishwashers, even pharmaceuticals.
The increasing competitive environment has created a number of demands for automakers, including shorter development time, increased cost pressures, global supply chains, and rising demands for quality products.
Rapid evolution of vehicle electronics, consistent quality control from suppliers, and stricter environmental and safety regulations present challenges.
Don't ignore globalization – a vehicle designed in one country is often manufactured in other countries. All of which underscore today's marketplace reality.
How does increased manufacturing complexity affect car buyers and vehicle owners? If faced with a recall issue, consumers should take a broader view of the situation and resist blanket condemnation of the manufacturer or the dealer.
All manufacturers have procedures in place to address automotive recalls. They usually involve bringing the vehicle to the branded dealer to address the issue, by repair, replacement or modification. Dealers understand that this is an annoyance. They will try to expedite the process as efficiently as possible. (Automobile recall issues are handled free of charge.)
Although an unexpected visit to a dealership for a recall is inconvenient, it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind in knowing that the vehicle will continue to operate efficiently and safely.
Product recalls today, in a complex, consumer-driven society, are a fact of life. The ability of a manufacturer to quickly react to enhance or correct a product deficiency is no longer unusual. Auto manufacturers and their selling dealers continue to lead in assuring that their customers are well served by the products they purchase.
To check a recall notice on a vehicle, visit the Transport Canada website at www.tc.gc.ca, or ask your local new car dealer.