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All Recalls Are Not the Same

Toyota
AP
Toyota

After I reported the latest recall by Toyota yesterday(740,000 models from '04-'06 to fix potential brake fluid leaks) I was talking with a friend who said, "Man, with all of these recalls I feel like cars are not as reliable."

I can't blame him for feeling that way.

The truth is, what the cars and trucks we drive (all brands) are better made and perform better.

The problem is the current news cycle and the way the auto industry is structured.

First of all, if you talk with the experts who track reliability, all of them will tell you there are fewer complaints and problems with our cars and trucks. The electronics and software, the precision of manufacturing, and the durability of our vehicles are continually improving. Twenty years ago if an automaker said it would stand behind an engine for 10 years or 100,000 miles, people would scoff. Today, it's not only expected, it's also a commitment automakers can make because their engines and the parts in those engines are built to last and perform.

So why does it feel like we are constantly hearing about recalls?

A big reason is because NHTSA has become much more vigilant about making sure automakers initiate recalls right away. Call it the "Toyota effect". Once the automaker got busted for dragging its feet about defects linked to unintended acceleration, everyone took notice. The new mantra in the industry is to get out the recall notices as soon as possible. And because of the Toyota scandal earlier this year, the news media are taking greater notice of recalls. Also, as automakers move to common platforms and global manufacturing, any problem that pops up is likely to impact a larger number of vehicles.

That doesn't mean our cars are rolling death traps. The overwhelming majority of recalls are for problems that can effect how vehicles perform, but will not cause them to be so unsafe you should stop driving them right away. In other words, many recall repairs can take place when you bring your car in for its next regular visit, and until then your car is likely to drive and feel like it normally does.

So the next time you hear about a recall, keep it in perspective. Yes, some are huge. And those are the ones that get big coverage. But remember, many other recalls are for problems that won't change how you are driving day to day.

- Ford Motor

- Toyota Motor

- Nissan

- Honda Motor

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