Say you're a dealer. You have a new car on your lot and discover that the model has been recalled for a severe safety problem.
Replacement parts are not yet available and may not be for months. Are you supposed to just park it in the back lot? You have several of the same model on your used-car lot, and you can't sell them either.
What if you temporarily disconnect a malfunctioning safety feature? Can you sell it then?
The factory can't build more of that model until the supplier makes safe replacement parts. But which one gets good parts first: dealerships, which can repair customers' cars and their unsold vehicles, or the assembly line?
If the factory engineered the defective part, what's the supplier's culpability? Who re-engineers the part? Who pays for the replacement parts?
There are many knotty questions to sort out.
Meanwhile, customers are unhappy, the factory is losing sales and dealers are confused.
The industry must find a better way to handle recalls.
Sometimes, as in the case of General Motors' ignition switches, recalls affect only one automaker and its brands. It's a challenge, but it's manageable when the responsibility is between one supplier and one automaker. It might affect millions of customers, but hopefully everyone knows where the responsibility lies.
But often, a vendor is supplying many car companies. Takata is a great example of a company supplying multiple manufacturers with airbags. Takata has so many parts engineered to specific models that it's hard to switch suppliers, so everyone has to wait for replacement parts. And nobody's sure which company gets replacement parts first. That's a dilemma in itself.
Recalls this year have been nothing short of catastrophic. The number of recalled vehicles in the U.S. far exceeds the number of light vehicles sold here this year.
Automakers, suppliers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have to get together and figure out a more efficient manner to handle massive recalls.
There's no simple answer, not even on who's responsible for defective parts. The whole issue of financial responsibility is so substantial it could end up in court -- in many courts around the world.
Meanwhile, should owners be driving recalled vehicles?
What's a dealer to do? What's a driver to do? It's anybody's guess.