Vehicle recalls – why so many unsafe vehicles remain on our roads

The number of vehicle recalls over the last decade has increased significantly. Unfortunately the number of vehicle owners bringing in their vehicles for the necessary repairs is nowhere near where it should be for the number of recalls, says Vishal Premlall, Director of Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA). “This means that there are potentially millions of dangerous vehicles on our roads.”


Over the last few years several leading car brands have announced local or global recalls for safety critical aspects such as airbags, brakes, steering wheels, emissions and more. So why the shortfall on vehicle recall repairs?


Premlall says this can be attributed to several reasons some of which include dealerships not being able to track down drivers; parts in short supply; repairs restricted to dealers only and so on.

“As it stands, customers out of warranty that don’t go back to dealerships, have no idea when a product recall takes place,” says Premlall.


He points out however that the aftermarket workshop industry deals with many of these out of warranty vehicles and therefore could assist with reaching as many affected cars as possible. “The reality of the situation is that the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) do not make recall information available to the aftermarket workshops. The fact that customers don’t go back to franchised dealers after warranty does not mean that the responsibility for the product recall is rendered ineffective,” he adds.


The Right to Repair Campaign is advocating that this information as well as the information needed to repair the vehicle is made available. “Graded aftermarket workshops have the capabilities to service as wide a customer network as possible to ensure that affected cars are rectified to the exacting standard as envisaged in the product recall.”


Referring to defective components and replacement parts, Premlall points out that a product recall is often triggered as a result of a defective component fitted by the OEM, often relating to compromised procurement practices. “This often means that a new component provider will need to be sourced which puts customers at a disadvantage as they have to wait for the part to be provided to the franchise dealer before it can be fitted. This wait is often a deterrent and sometimes a reason why many drivers just don’t get the problem fixed. Once again this decision compromises the safety of the vehicle and other drivers on our roads. It appears that in many of the recall cases in South Africa and globally cost of parts has won in the quality versus cost debate.”


“Consumers need to realise that parts issues are not isolated to used cars. There is also no truth in the generalisation that the aftermarket uses sub-standard parts. Recalls show that even new cars can be fitted with defective components.”


Premlall strongly believes that the answer to safer cars on South African roads and more effective recalls lies in opening up the access to information to the aftermarket.


“We all want safer cars on South African roads. Keeping all vehicles roadworthy needs to be the collective responsibility of the consumer and all industry players. This can only be achieved if all players are given a fair and equal chance to service vehicles,” he concludes.