No matter what it's called, a recall still means that for safety's sake, owners should bring their vehicles back to the dealership.
That's why the decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to expand and standardize use of the word "recall" makes so much sense. And it is why NHTSA officials should remain resolute in the face of any industry criticism.
It's always nice when somebody in Washington makes things easier to understand. In this case, it also could save lives if it makes it easier for vehicle owners to understand that they ought to go back to the dealership.
Automakers, when they can get away with it, prefer to call a recall something else: Safety improvement campaign, customer satisfaction program or whatever.
Federal safety officials have had enough of the euphemism game. From now on, when a manufacturer takes back a car or truck for a safety repair, the effort is going to be listed as a recall in NHTSA's database. That will be true even when the recall doesn't exactly fit the technical, legal definition of "recall" in federal law.
Agency officials say that a uniform listing of safety repairs available for each make and model will be less confusing to owners. The officials also say that their decision should cut down on the negotiating that frequently goes on between NHTSA and automakers over whether a needed repair qualifies officially as a recall.
Soon after NHTSA made its declaration in a background briefing for reporters, officials got cold feet and tried to minimize its significance. They should stick to their guns.
And automakers should stop worrying about the stigma of the word "recall." Their reputations suffer far more when they use weasel words and look like they are trying to duck responsibility.