Beyond the high-profile Takata airbag recall, vehicle recalls are more a common occurrence and range from mundane regulatory requirements to life-saving mandatory fixes.
The Takata airbag recall is the most high-profile vehicle recall in Australia and for good reason. Three million cars were fitted with potentially lethal airbag inflators in Australia. The risk was so great that state governments refused to re-register vehicles that were subject to the recall until they had been fixed.
Globally, a staggering 100 million cars were recalled due to the safety issue, which was caused by the propellent used to inflate the airbag burning too quickly. The resulting explosion then fired shards of metal and plastic into the cabin.
Vehicle recalls are actually a common occurrence and usually involve far less concerning issues.
The usual symptom for a recall is a component in the vehicle that isn’t operating correctly or wasn’t manufactured or installed according to normal specifications.
That can include something as seemingly innocuous as an infotainment screen not switching off its television mode when the car is moving to incorrect labelling on the jack.
Many of these vehicle recalls arise because a component has been incorrectly fitted during on the production line, usually as a result of the wrong batch of parts being supplied for vehicles destined for Australia.
As is the case with the infotainment display and jack issue mentioned above, these components do not pose an imminent safety issue, but they aren’t certified according to the Australian Design Rules and are therefore not permitted to be on the car.
For example, Toyota recalled 30,000 C-HR compact SUVs this year (built between 2016 and 2020) because a sticker hadn’t been plastered to the towbar affirming that it complied with European regulations. That omission also saw the vehicles also not comply with the ADRs. That’s not going to impinge on the car’s safety or the owner’s enjoyment of the vehicle but it does mean they’re technically in breach of Australian law.
Conversely, vehicle recalls affecting steering, braking and electrical components that can potentially ignite a fire are all serious problems that need to be rectified as quickly as possible.
BMW has recalled 107 X3 SUVs, X4 SUVs and 5-Series sedans to address a software update, that “may lead to an engine failure whilst driving and a red Check Control message "Drive faulty” may also appear”. As the recall notice identifies, “a sudden loss of engine power increases the risk of an accident and injury or death to vehicle occupants and/or other road users”.