General Motors is to recall more than 800,000 cars in the US and  Canada because of a power steering problem. Luxury brand Mercedes Benz is also recalling vehicles, a sign that manufacturers need to refocus on product quality if they intend to stay ahead in a competitive market.

GM is recalling those over 800,000 cars due to a power steering defect.
Although none were fatal, the manufacturer has reported eight injuries related to the problem. GM said the recall involves Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Chevrolet models all made between January 1996 and October 1997. Of the total, about 750,000 vehicles are in the US and approximately 55, 000 are in Canada.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also investigating supposed failures of power steering, brakes and windshield wipers, which could affect more than 1.2 million GM vehicles.

The news comes at the same time as DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes Benz subsidiary is recalling 33,000 cars worldwide to check potential faulty seatbelt buckles. The manufacturer's reputation for quality is suffering another slip following poor scores in quality surveys.

The big three US automakers - GM, DaimlerChrysler and Ford - have all suffered in the past 12 months, losing market share in the domestic market while the leading trio of foreign manufacturers - Toyota, Honda and Nissan - all expanded theirs. Although regaining ground is expected to be difficult, GM and DaimlerChrysler's new 2004 portfolio should help to stop their market share declining any further.

GM needs positive feedback from its most recent customers if it is to succeed in its ambitious market expansion drive in the coming year. In 2004, GM expects to increase its global industry sales by more than 3%, which equates to around 60 million vehicles. This growth is expected to be led by gains in China and other emerging markets, coupled with further improvement in domestic performance.

GM has worked hard in recent years to improve its image and change customer perception. The use of generous incentives and aggressive marketing has reinforced the message that GM offers attractive and reliable products. However, recalls due to defective products will not help GM in its bid to shake off its reputation for poor build quality.