Just when is a recall not a recall?

When it’s an “inspection” apparently.

Following some rather alarming incidents involving Tata Motors’ ultra-cheap Nano brand bursting into flames, the Indian automaker is to contact each owner to set up appointments to inspect the cars.

It follows highly-publicised incidents this year where one Nano caught fire shortly after delivery due “probably” to what the company terms a “foreign object on a hot exhaust system,” while the second combustion incident involved a ruptured fuel line.

Well done to Tata for issuing the “inspection” advice, but why the extraordinary sensitivity to the word recall concerning its $2,400 Nano?

In a robust conversation today (25 May), a Tata spokesman in Mumbai insisted to just-auto there was no question of any recall: “Nano is not being recalled, it is completely incorrect,” he maintained.

But what’s the problem with a recall? It’s simply a company being honest and upfront, recognising there is an issue and dealing promptly with it.

Maybe Tata has taken one look at the furore surrounding Toyota and taken fright, but it could be argued that the Japanese manufacturer did not deal as well as it could with the public relations side of that particular saga.

The issue dragged out interminably until the boss himself went to Washington to explain what his company was doing about the situation.

And Mumbai isn’t exactly helping itself either by referring to “additional protection” it could offer on the cars when they are recalled, sorry, asked back for inspection. What is that extra protection and why can’t Tata detail exactly what it is?

This from Tata: “The company has decided it will allay any concerns by owners by inspecting all cars with customers and, where necessary, add additional protection to ensure the car’s safety.”

There’s no problem in saying what the remedy is. Surely customers would prefer the reassurance that not only has Tata identified the problem, but that it has come up with a gizmo to fix it.

Cars mysteriously catching fire is no-one’s cup of tea, but Tata hopping around the word ‘recall’ as if it’s a cat on a hot tin roof is only adding to the confusion.