Ironically, More Recalls Suggest That Car Quality Is Improving

April 29, 2013

If you keep up with car news -- and since you're here, there's a good chance you do -- you noticed plenty of recalls over the last few months. Within the past two weeks alone, Honda, Nissan, BMW, GM, and other automakers have recalled millions of vehicles for safety flaws.

At first glance, that might seem to indicate a decline in the quality of today's automobiles. But as Detroit News notes, appearances can be deceiving.

In fact, the rise in recalls is great news for consumers and for the industry as a whole. Detroit News offer a couple of reasons for the uptick, and we have one of our own:

1. Quality control is getting better, making problems simpler to spot. Thanks to more sensitive testing software, plus increased communication between the various divisions at car companies, it's far easier to discover trouble spots in-house. Email and social media have also improved communication between consumers and automakers, boosting the speed at which reports from the field can be received, analyzed, and addressed. Detroit News cites Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, who points out that while the number of recalls has increased, the number of vehicles included in those recalls has actually declined. That suggests that automakers are able to spot smaller, more hidden problems with greater ease. Clearly, the situation isn't perfect -- if it were, there'd be no recalls at all -- but it's improving.

2. Companies are trying to be proactive rather than reactive. Over the years, we've seen numerous examples of automakers dragging their feet on recalls. The companies hemmed and hawed until the problems with their vehicles reached catastrophic proportions, garnering unflattering headlines and nasty backlashes from the public. In today's generally more marketing-savvy world, automakers realize that if there's a problem, it's better to nip it in the bud than to play catch-up later.

3. Related to that is the fact that companies have no choice but to be transparent. The internet has made life better and worse for automakers. On the one hand, it's improved car companies' ability to spot and address flaws. On the other, it's given the public more ways to learn about recalls and, when necessary, to vent their frustrations with automakers in very public ways. It's become increasingly difficult for companies of any kind to keep their business practices opaque; when they try to do so (and fail), the results can be disastrous. The trend is toward transparency, and ramping up recalls is part of that process.

Has your car been recalled lately? Has the recall made you feel more or less comfortable behind the wheel? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[h/t John Voelcker]

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