Well, the first quarter of 2020 has recently ended. For the automotive industry in Australia, and throughout the rest of the world, it feels like an entire year's worth of drama has taken place in just these four months. The coronavirus has put a strain on the international car parts supply chain. Local lockdowns have brought car sales almost to a screeching halt. On top of that, Australia has seen automakers issue a series of recalls and buybacks for thousands of cars. As if it wasn't enough that there's a deadly virus going around, many car owners have also had to worry about dangers posed by unsafe auto parts.
What Are Recalls and Buybacks?
First of all, let's make sure we understand what recalls and buybacks are.
Sometimes, auto manufacturers or even government regulators find out that a specific car part is faulty to the point that it's unsafe. Maybe it's a piece of equipment or even a car tyre that doesn't meet minimum safety standards, putting drivers and passengers at risk. In this case, an automaker may issue a recall and let all owners of affected car models know about the problem. Car owners will then bring their vehicles in for a repair or replacement that's usually free.
A buyback, on the other hand, is what happens when the automaker decides to purchase the entire vehicle back from the owner. It usually occurs for the same reasons; perhaps there's a faulty or unsafe part that cannot be fixed.
Whatever the case may be, there have been several significant recalls and buybacks in Australia over the past four months.
Summary of Recalls/Buybacks in Australia from January-April 2020
Here's a quick look at them:
The year started with one of the most significant automotive controversies as of late – the Takata airbag recall. Takata Corporation is a Japanese auto parts manufacturer with facilities all over the world. Among other car parts, they supplied airbags to about 20 automakers who put them into more than 100 million cars. The problem? These airbags tended to either explode or deploy under-inflated when the vehicle gets into a collision. As you might imagine, these faulty airbags have already caused injuries and even deaths all over the world.
Per a statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) back in January, this issue has affected 256,000 vehicles in Australia. This issue has affected various models from carmakers like Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Honda and many other significant players. As of January, more than 3.5 million of these Takata airbags had already been replaced. Toyota, Suzuki and Mazda have also offered to buy back affected models from their owners.
We've covered this issue in-depth in the past. Find out more about them in the article "Takata Airbag Recall: Answers to FAQs."
Also in January was the recall issued by Holden and Lotus, triggered by faulty fuel systems in their cars. These affected Holden's diesel Commodore and Lotus' Elise models in particular. Between those two models, about 517 cars were recalled after it was found that their fuel systems had possible leaks and posed a significant fire risk to drivers. Despite the similarities between both recalls, it seems that they are unrelated to each other.
In February 2020, a recall was issued by Toyota for its Prius and Prius V models. In total, about 1,037 cars were affected by this recall. This fault didn't pose a direct safety threat, as it concerned the cars' seatbelt reminder switch. Apparently, because the switches were assembled incorrectly, they tended to wear out abnormally and cause a short circuit between its contacts. When that happens, the switch could no longer work as it should.
As a result, this caused the seatbelt reminder to chime and flash even when seatbelts were fastened as they should be. This could pose a significant distraction to drivers and indirectly affect safety.
March was also an intense month for recalls in Australia.
First (and in no particular order), there was the Isuzu recall that affected over 2,300 of its D-Max Crew Cab pickup trucks. In this case, the concern was that the rear leaf springs could fracture and split because there was an insufficient diameter of the front eye. If these springs did indeed break, the driver could very well lose control of their vehicle.
Skoda, on the other hand, issued a recall with a cause that's relatively rare: a software fault. The Czech carmaker recalled 395 of its affected Superb large cars to fix the software bug that affected its front signals.
Even German carmaker Mercedes Benz issued two recalls in March, the first of which concerned only 9 of its vans. Apparently, the Sprinter VS30 van had a faulty weld in the height adjuster seam. This might not seem to pose a direct safety threat, but still, the seam could break in the event of a collision and render the overall restraint system less effective.
The second Mercedes recall was for ten of its V-Class vans which were fitted with faulty head restraints. The danger here was that the padding on the restraint could separate from its securing rods, leaving those metal rods exposed. Exposed rods in the middle of a car? Those could certainly cause a heap of pain to the van's occupants!
April has been another busy month of recalls. Brands like Toyota, Lexus, Renault and Volkswagen have all issued recalls of their own recently.
In the first week itself, Toyota and Lexus issued recalls affecting more than 52,000 of its vehicles under the Camry, Corolla, Kluger, Hilux, and other brands. This was due to a faulty fuel pump that could potentially stop working altogether. If or when that happens, the engine would stop working as it should and drive up the risk of a crash.
Volkswagen, on the other hand, had an issue with its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. The danger posed was that the gearbox could lose fluid pressure and cause the vehicle to lose power while driving. Their recall affected over 16,000 cars under their Golf, Jetta, Passat, Polo and Caddy nameplates.
Last but not least, the busiest of them all has been Renault. This company issued four separate recalls (yes, FOUR!). In total, they had to recall about 8,400 vehicles for issues like a faulty windscreen wiper assembly and rear spoilers that could detach from specific models. On top of that, there was the recall for a defective park brake calliper that wasn't up to standard and another recall for rear axle bolts that weren't tightened appropriately during assembly.
Comply with the Recall
A recall can be a great inconvenience to car owners. On your part, you'd have to bring your car in and spend time waiting for the repairs to take place. For some car owners, there may even be the issue of confidence lost in their prized vehicle. Having said that, if you're affected by a recall, it's best not to delay. Comply with the recall and get it done as soon as possible to remove any risks posed by the defective car part. Even though those repairs will cost you some time, in most cases they probably wouldn't cost you a single dollar.
By Ray Hasbollah