Understanding Vehicle Recalls

Yesterday saw the official recall of the Ford Kuga after 47 vehicles reportedly caught alight, while last year 3 million Toyotas were recalled from the South Africa market due to a faulty airbag, which affected 41 million vehicles across the globe.

Recalls are far more common than we might think. Jeff Osborne from Gumtree South Africa says that whether or not a vehicle is recalled is usually decided on a global level, rather than locally.

“More than 50 million vehicles are recalled worldwide every year (or at least, this has been the case since 2014 – virtually double the amount of recalls for 2013 and earlier years) and South Africa has also been affected,” says Osborne.

“Firstly, it’s important to note that a recall does not mean that you should view your car as a death trap –the particular vehicle you are driving might not even have been affected, even if you are driving a brand undergoing recalls. Moreover, a recall is precautionary measure and an indication of potential risk of injury or damage, not a given that the car is faulty. They are intended to fix known problems with vehicles and manufacturers err on the side of caution if they believe a defect of any kind is present,” he explains.

In fact, according to Osborne, the manufacturers are usually the first to initiate a recall. “Most recalls, are voluntary. Manufacturers care about their customers’ safety and will go to great lengths to protect them. In other instances, recalls are negotiated with suppliers by the National Consumer Commission or other Regulators when a safety issue is identified to enforce compliance. The Commission may also order a compulsory recall to protect the public (as per section 60(2) of the CPA, issuing a written notice stipulating the manner in which the recall must be conducted – this is however, a last resort,” says Osborne.

“If you are concerned about the vehicle you are driving, take it to your dealership or service center for a thorough examination of the part that is in question, e.g. coolant leaks (that has been the issue for the Kuga),” says Osborne.

Should a vehicle be recalled, the owner will receive communication that explains the description of the defect, the risk posed, potential warning signs and how the manufacturer will fix the problem along with instructions of how to proceed. “In most cases, you will be asked to set up a repair appointment with your local dealership.” 

Manufacturers will try to contact all possible owners affected and will usually provide contact details for owners to proactively reach out as well.

“Being on the recall list does not mean that you are in danger or even that your car will experience the issues described, but it’s best not to take a risk. Make sure that you follow instructions and take your car to approved service centers to handle the issue.”


Consumers who discover a flaw in a vehicle they own can report it to the National Consumer Commission, Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices or similar automotive industry bodies. 


“It may seem as though recalls permeate the headlines, but these are testimony to the dedication of automakers to ensure that our roads (and their customers) are as safe as possible.” 

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