Vehicle recalls - the need to know guide

"This can result in the electrical system malfunctioning, the vehicle failing to start and, in some cases, charring or fire,". Those were the words of BMW on their most recent recall of around 1.3 million vehicles. While this latest recall is not the largest or most dangerous on record it does give us a chance to discuss the subject. Indeed it's this very subject which gives car designers and fleet managers unending nightmares the world over.

What to do when your vehicle is recalled

You could be a fleet manager with 20 recall letters sitting in your inbox or a private owner with a confusing letter telling you to make your way into the city for “urgent repairs”. Either way recalls can be deeply alarming and in both cases the advice is always the same. If there is any health risk at all (these may be referred to as “mandatory recalls”) take the recommended action immediately. In cases where the recall is not threatening to your health (sometimes referred to as “voluntary”) the best advice is to take action as soon as possible but remember that the vehicle is still safe to drive with caution.

Private owners and fleet managers should be aware that almost one thousand people have died and thousands more have been injured in vehicle recalls in just the past 33 years. They should also be aware that they can avil of further assistance from any recall helpline. These additional resources are especially important for the fleet manager who is facing the prospect of losing multiple vehciles indefintely to a recall.

The top ten biggest vehicle recalls by volume

As noted at the start, the latest recall from BMW is by no means the largest. In fact other than this recall the BMW record can be considered exemplary in comparison to some of the other more regular offenders. Take a look at this top ten horror show.

No. Maker/Year Number/Cause
1. Ford 2008-09 (14.1 million) faulty cruise control
2. Toyota, 2009-11 (9 million) floor mats
3. Ford, 1996 (8 million) defective ignition
4. GM, 1971 (6.7 million) defective engine mounts
5. GM, 1981 (5.8 million) suspension bolts
6. Ford, 1972 (4.1 million) faulty seatbelt buckles
7. GM, 1973 (3.7 million) steering controls unprotected
8. Honda, 1995 (3.7 million) faulty seatbelt buckles
9. Volkswagen, 1972 (3.7 million) Windscreen wipers
10. GM, 2004 (3.6 million) Tailgate cables



Big companies do make big mistakes but there is a network around the customers during the recall period. In the end the old Latin saying of “Caveat emptor” or “Buyer beware" still applies, even in 2012. Customers who are in any doubt about their vehicles recall status should always be aware of the Australian government website on recalls here. In addition to this it is always sensible to remain vigilant, research and ask questions of anything you suspect as not quite right or unusual in your vehicle.

What do you think of BMW's recall?

Have you ever been involved in a vehicle recall?

Tell us what you think below.

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