The price of increased market share for the Japanese juggernauts Toyota and Honda is becoming more apparent these days as they advance even further into the domestic automotive market, that is, more recalls. The demand for the most popular vehicles, demands more output from the factories, often leading to a lapse in stringent quality control checks or batches of sub-par components that often never become apparent until years later. This malign which often plagues the home turf manufacturers such as GM, Ford and DamlierChrysler is now becoming a more frequent visitor to their doorstep making for a small chink in what once was, ironclad armor.
Today we find that Toyota has launched a voluntary recall of its very successful full-size pickup and SUV, the Tundra and Sequoia according to Automotive News. The culprit being the ball joint assemblies in the front suspension. Toyota have said that maybe the surfaces could have been scratched during assembly causing excessive wear resulting in harder steering and excessive noise. Is this because the manufacturing process has been sped up to meet demand?
This follows a similar recall of the popular 4Runners, Tacomas, Tundras and Sequoias in May of 2005 which also had ball-joint problems even though the company denied any problems with the manufacturing process.
To me this signifies the inherent problem that faces all mass production. The higher the demand, the less time allowed for assembly and troubleshooting, after all you have to crank out those vehicles so as not to lose a sale. The numbers we are taking about are significant, 553,000 for this recall on 2004-07 vehicles and 750,000 for the previous 2001-04 recall but will this tarnish the indisputable reputation for quality that everyone has come to expect from Toyota. If it were a domestic manufacturer I’m sure the outcome would be significant, take the tire problems of Ford as an instance, this was the start of a downward spiral.
Hondas woes account for a total of 81,000 vehicles of their popular sedan, the Accord, for model years 2004-05 representing 23% of sales for those years. The problem lies in the faulty wiring of an airbag sensor on the drivers side which can result in full deployment regardless of the seat position. As everyone is well aware, this could be extremely dangerous for smaller drivers causing injuries rather than preventing them.
With every manufacturer trying to squeeze their suppliers to keep operating costs down even the most reliable vendors are going to cut costs, therefore passing any unfortunate mishap on to the consumer. Is this the price of doing business in the 21st century we may well ask and still be competitive?
Nevertheless, much of the component manufacturing is finding its way to cheaper labor forces that are abundant in contries such as India and China but does that mean the quality aspect may be a little off? The expectations that are taken for granted here may take a little more time with a different labor force even though the skill levels are the same, making it even more important that the quality controllers and batch inspectors are vigilant until that playing field is indeed level.
Still, with the ever increasing battle for the manufacturers number one spot, chances will be taken to bring vehicles to market quicker, to gain that edge over the next competitor but in doing so quality of parts must not suffer, neither should passenger safety, after all, it’s mine and your life that is at stake.