Not that long ago, life was simpler for manufacturers, dealers and their customers.
Today we are looking at record recalls, millions more than ever before. Recalls are issued for defects when no parts are available and might not be for months or even years. Consumers have no idea what to do when they get a notification of a recall.
Too many manufacturers are disregarding quality and safety when they make parts. Takata is the prime example of manufacturing gone awry. Dealers have thousands of customers who don't know what to do with their defective cars. No one can give them any advice except park them and wait.
All too often, companies are involved in cover-ups to hide their mistakes. Volkswagen has become the poster child for intentional cover-ups, and it will cost VW dearly in money, sales and reputation. General Motors was involved in a serious cover-up with defective ignition switches that lasted for years because some employees worked hard to hide the deadly problem.
Safety has always been a tough problem for companies, but recently it has become even tougher.
Maybe the modern automobile has become too complex to have the same reliability as cars had decades ago, or maybe pressure on employees right up to the CEO to deliver sales and profits has changed the way people operate.
There is a contradiction. In many ways, cars today are more durable and safer, with better fuel economy and lower emissions than ever. Yet there are millions more recalls, and many people are frustrated about product reliability.
The competition among suppliers is fiercer than ever, and the pressure to keep parts and systems at the lowest possible cost has never been greater. It's a Catch-22 for the industry.
Over the decades, there have been some vehicles no one wanted to brag about. But in today's marketplace, it's impossible to name any real turkeys for sale.
Recalls are an unpleasant surprise for the customer, the dealer and the factories. It might be the result of spectacular sales over the past couple of years or pressure on the bottom line. It would be a shame if the solution were to see sales soften a bit so everyone can catch a breath.
The industry has to find a solution, and there must be an adequate penalty to eliminate cover-ups.