A funny thing has happened in the mainstream media since the PR firestorm otherwise known as the Toyota unintended acceleration recall became national news. Suddenly it seems that every reputable auto manufacturer is coming down with a serious case of recall-itis. Case in point is the new recall of over 400,000 2007-2008 Honda Element and Odyssey models for a brake issue.
This Honda recall was initiated by the manufacturer as a precautionary measure as there have been three accidents (no deaths) due to what customers described as “pedal softness.” Apparently a miniscule amount of air can get into the brake master cylinder system causing less effective brake application in a panic stop.
Although this recall is quite frankly a rather rudimentary issue, it still managed to make international headlines even going so far as to cause Honda stock prices to fall 54 cents to $35.86 on the New York Stock Exchange. How is one minor mechanical flaw capable of calling into question the strength of a monolithic multi-national corporation like Honda?
Simply put, it is just another case of a story hungry media waiting for another juicy story to fall into their laps. Granted, the Toyota unintended acceleration recall is a huge concern and with over 50 suspected deaths it very well should be. But does that mean the quality and safety of every single vehicle on the roads today has to be called into question?
Come on now, it’s not like all modern vehicles are controlled by mad robotic minds similar to the Hal 9000 computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Honda has had three major mechanical recalls in the last year or so, the most sizable of which was an issue with overly strong airbag deployment in Accord and Acura models. Quite frankly it is amazing that there aren’t more automotive safety hazards coming to light considering how many complex moving and computerized parts there are in today’s cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans.
Although safety recalls are regrettable, Honda should be applauded for facing the Odyssey and Element brake issue head on regardless of what it did to their stock price. As someone who used to work for Ford Motor Company in the early part of this decade I can tell you that during that period there was usually one new safety recall each and every week. And they were usually serious safety related concerns. They involved things like Ford Escapes whose steering wheels fell off and Ford Focus sedans whose wheels broke free of the axle.
Thankfully Ford no longer does business like that and as such their reliability rankings have improved dramatically. Surely Toyota is taking this recall as a sign that they need to make sure that the safety of their customers comes first, not their financial bottom line. But just because Toyota made one mistake must we take it out on all worldwide automakers with panic inducing journalism?
A few months back the major news item of the moment involved the marital infidelity of golfing champion Tiger Woods. After this story broke was there suddenly a rash of reporting going on regarding all the local married men who pick up sleazy cocktail waitresses at the local Applebees? Of course not. For the media to report on every cheating husband would be a waste of time and energy. While this Honda recall is a problem worth taking care of it isn’t really anything beyond a normal day in the life of an auto company.