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Not All Recalls Are Created Equal

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On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 5:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Not All Recalls Are Created Equal

When Mazda Motor Corp. announced the most recent recall involving a half a million Mazda3 models worldwide, with defects that could potentially result in loss of power steering (which has allegedly caused at least three crashes), the press did not report. Just another of a string of recalls right? Well, maybe not; when the history of the problem is really examined some may wonder “where’s the outrage?” Which is the question the title of a recent Automotive News article poses.

When the facts are examined, it’s interesting to note that Mazda, being a Japanese automaker with its headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, instantly brings to mind a comparison with Toyota; Mazda recalling half a million vehicles with potential life threatening risks that could occur from sudden loss of power steering, and Toyota Corp. recalling thousands of vehicles for potential problems with sudden unintended acceleration. All things being equal, it seems that both automakers would receive equal press, particularly considering that Mazda, like Toyota, didn’t inform the U.S. public of its knowledge of power steering problems even though Mazda had knowledge of potential risks for fatal accidents for at least 1 year prior to the recall.

Yes, that’s right, one year. Federal regulators began an investigation in June of the Mazda3 models equipped with electronically assisted power steering as a result of complaints that had been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mazda replied with a letter dated August 12th stating: “rust that forms within the steering hydraulic system can damage a motorized pump, triggering an automatic shutdown to prevent overheating.”

Mazda’s internal investigation had determined that the defect “doesn’t pose an unreasonable safety risk,” according to David Robertson, group manager of environmental, safety, and powertrain engineering of Mazda’s North American operations, who wrote the letter to NHTSA.

NHTSA reported in a summary of its investigation earlier this year that it had received 33 complaints from consumers, including three in which the loss of steering control led to a crash.

According to a recent automotive news article, the Mazda recall comes a year after the automaker remedied the problem on vehicles it sold in Japan, but no action was taken regarding U.S.-sold Mazda vehicles with potential power steering problems.

Sound familiar? Sort of like what ended up giving Toyota Motor Corp. the reputation for being the automaker that received the BIGGEST fine in U.S. history for late reporting of a problem with sudden acceleration problems.

So the question remains: why isn’t Mazda being denounced for making the same mistake in delayed recalls? According to a recent Auto news.com article, the answer is two-fold; first of all, Mazda isn’t the world’s largest automaker. “When you’re No. 1, the spotlight is always on you.” And the second reason, according to Auto News, is that “Mazda didn’t build its sales on a reputation for bulletproof reliability.”


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