What is the difference between these two statements? 

‘Wheels may misalign’ and ‘Sub-frame may fail resulting in the driver losing control of the car’. 

There is no difference because both relate to exactly the same recall by a non-European vehicle manufacturer. The first description is on the official VOSA recall website (www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/apps/recalls) while the other was found on www.recalluk.com before it closed. Motor Codes has now entered into the market place for suggesting sanitised soothing searches. 

The fact that one description is benign at best and the other should fill you with dread, especially if you owned a Lancia Beta in the early 1980s, suggests that the vehicle recall system in the UK may itself be in need of a recall.

Since the beginning of the year several car manufacturers have announced product recalls, some more than once. Some of the brands involved may not be a surprise but some are as they are consistently rated highly for their reliability. 

The modern car is a very complex piece of machinery and all it needs is a missed widget or slightly deformed component for a recall to result. 

The ‘wheels may misalign’ is a perfect example of how some manufacturers choose to describe the reason for the recall in a way so as not to cause too much alarm. 

The VOSA website is full of such cautionary understatements but in an effort to minimise distress the opposite effect may result.

I wouldn’t be too relaxed if I received a letter advising me of a recall for any of the following reasons– ‘clutch and gear selection may be lost’, ‘engine may cut out’, ‘brakes may fail’, ‘fuel may leak’, ‘directional control may be lost’ and my favourite, ‘steering wheel may detach’!

Some years ago a recall involving several million cars throughout Europe took many months to be introduced because once the cause of the problem had been identified and the solution ‘signed-off’ by engineering a further four months was required for a supplier to make the several million parts required to fix the problem. 

It’s no good announcing a recall and then having to tell customers they will have to wait a further four months before it can be fixed especially if a potential fire is involved.

So is the recall system as robust as it can be or does it need its own recall?

Today’s recalls are structured, monitored and have to comply with strict guidelines, a great improvement over the ‘wild west’ or ‘head in the sand’ approach employed by some manufacturers in years gone by. 

The recall system isn’t perfect but does work because a high percentage of cars recalled are inspected and rectified, much more than with any other consumer product. This certainly applies to newer cars but those five years and older do provide another challenge for manufacturers as ownership details may not be so reliable.

It shows that vehicle manufacturers are, by and large, on top of the situation even if it may take several months between identifying a problem and providing a solution.  Captain Pugwash

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