Four Wheel Detention: All About Car Recalls

If a manufacturer recalls a car to the workshop, concern quickly arises.

Four Wheel Detention: All About Car Recalls

If a manufacturer recalls a car to the workshop, concern quickly arises. But there is not always a serious defect behind a recall. You need to know.

Faulty airbags, a stuck seat belt or oil leakage: In the event of defects like these, affected vehicles are quickly called back to the workshop and the vehicle manufacturer behind them sometimes even makes the headlines. The common assumption is that anyone who recalls a car has not done a good job before.

However, that is not entirely correct: "Car recalls are generally a good thing, because the manufacturer takes care that a smaller or larger defect is eliminated," says Holger Ippen from the "Auto Zeitung". "When that didn't exist, we had significantly more avoidable accidents."

However, a distinction must be made as to what type of recall it is: "In the case of a mandatory recall, the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) is involved," says Gerrit Reichel from the Automobile Club Verkehr (ACV). "Because these are safety-related defects, such as the airbag or the seat belt." The affected vehicle owners would be written to and asked to visit an authorized workshop.

"The manufacturer makes use of both its own customer database and the KBA's owner addresses," says Reichel. In this way, vehicle owners who can no longer be found in the manufacturer's databases can also be reached.

If a keeper is affected, he or she does not have to take action himself. "The notification is usually sent by letter or postcard, either from the car manufacturer itself or via the Federal Motor Transport Authority," says Reichel.

In the case of a mandatory recall, the KBA also monitors whether a car has found its way to the workshop. However, the possibilities are limited: "The KBA cannot contact every individual owner and check whether he was in the workshop," says Ippen.

"But if a recall is ignored, that would be noticed at the next HU at the latest, or if the car is in an authorized workshop for another reason," he says.

Then the missing recall date is reported to the KBA and, in the worst case, the operating permit expires. In addition, ignoring a mandatory recall can also affect insurance coverage.

If an accident occurs as a result, the loss of claims for damages may result. The owner would then have to prove that he knew nothing about the recall, explains Reichel. In addition, the insurance cover expires automatically if the KBA forces a shutdown.

Voluntary recalls, on the other hand, do not relate to any safety-related defects. "Automobile manufacturers like to refer to these as service campaigns or product optimizations, which are then often carried out as part of scheduled inspections," says Ulrich Köster from the Central Association of the German Motor Vehicle Trade (ZDK).

Voluntary recalls, sometimes also referred to as "silent" recalls, are often based on improvements in comfort, such as updating software or fixing a floor mat that previously slipped.

"Manufacturers often initiate such a service call-back even after increased customer service feedback on a defect," says Holger Ippen. "These voluntary recalls are always about optimizing the vehicle, and for the manufacturer it's also about the good reputation."

There were a lot of service recalls, especially in the 2000s. "During this time, the car manufacturers used recalls very much for customer loyalty and called drivers to the workshops very often," says Ippen.

Now that is no longer the case. According to Ippen, most voluntary recalls today concern electronics.

If you want to buy a used car, you can use the KBA database or the ADAC website to check whether there have been mandatory recalls for the car type.

"If the checkbook does not show that the car was in the workshop for this purpose, a brand workshop can definitely determine that," says Gerrit Reichel.

If a used car changes hands, the owner must also provide the buyer with information about recall campaigns. "The vehicle owner must inform the potential buyer that he has not participated in a recall campaign by the vehicle manufacturer," says Köster.

As a consequence, under certain circumstances this will also have an impact on the sales price: "If the period for troubleshooting has already expired at the time of resale, this will have a negative effect on the price of the used car".

Incidentally, a customer is not entitled to a replacement car if they are called back for the duration of the workshop visit. "Here he is dependent on the goodwill of the manufacturer or the workshop," says Köster.