Blog: Graeme RobertsIf in doubt, recall?

Graeme Roberts | 13 April 2015

Is it really necessary to force BMW to recall Minis just to replace an incorrect tyre warning label?

Is it really necessary to force BMW to recall Minis just to replace an incorrect tyre warning label?

Ping goes the inbox and there's the weekly recall notification list from the US government's road safety regulator, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (or NHTSA or even 'Nit-sa' for short in the local vernacular).

In the last few years or so, I've noticed NHTSA seemingly will recall almost anything for (sometimes) not very much - from a single car unit (one i3 for an airbag check recently) to millions.

Many recalls (the humungeous, multi-million unit GM ignition switch debacle comes immediately to mind) are well justified but a couple of recent campaigns do seem trivial and I wonder if they could have been handled more simply by the Technical Service Bulletin method more often used this side of the Atlantic.

Cases in point are several wrong tyre labels applied to BMW Mini models, all of which apparently require up to almost 20,000 cars be recalled to dealers. You can understand the need to call back a model with a potentially loose fastening for a critical steering or suspension component or a tendency for a subframe to rust after salty road use or an airbag inflator that might shoot lethal shrapnel at occupants - but the wrong tyre label? Could not they simply be put in the post - with an instruction sheet - for a current owner to install?

I guess that, after all the flak that flew over the massive Toyota 'sudden acceleration' controversy some years ago, NHTSA and automakers have erred well on the side of caution. (Remember the then US Transportation Secretary controversially promising to hold the automaker's 'feet to the fire' and who then went very quiet after a NASA engineering team couldn't find a relevant fault in the affected Toyotas?)

But, seriously guys, given that US owners' recall response rate is nowhere as high as it might be, and diminishes as vehicles age, is it really necessary to recall a car because a minor tyre label error requires replacement any owner could do in five minutes?

Sectors: Components, Vehicle markets

Companies: BMW Mini, Toyota, BMW, GM


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