Over the weekend Honda announced yet another recall related to electrical components and vehicle fires with a twist: buried in the middle of the announcement is a recommendation that owners “park outside until the recall repair has been performed.” Problem with the recall is it doesn’t tell the whole story about the real danger: if the switch causes a vehicle fire, and the vehicle is parked in your garage, it might burn down your house.
The recall relates to 2002-2006 CR-V passenger vehicles that have power window switch that can melt and cause a fire. The switch can fail and cause a fire even when the vehicle is turned off.
Another problem is the recall doesn’t start until November 2, 2012. Until then, if you don’t hear about the recall or don’t know you should park outside because it might start a house fire, you and your family are at risk.
This happened a few years ago in one one our cases involving a different vehicle that had an electrical defect. There was no recall and the family had no idea they had a problem.
One day, the mom brought her three young children home from school, parked in her garage and turned off the vehicle. The dad was at work. Mom and the kids went upstairs. Suddenly and without warning the mom smelled smoke. She began frantically looking for her children to take them outside. She was only able to find one of them before the flames forced her out of the house. The other two children were later found in their room, where they had died hiding from the fire. This case tragically demonstrates how incredibly dangerous an electrical defect can be, especially when the defect can cause a fire even when the vehicle is turned off.
Today’s Honda recall involves a switch which can cause a fire even when the vehicle is turned off. But it doesn’t tell people that the if a fire starts it might be so hot and violent that it causes a house fire. Buried in the middle of the recall is a statement that “owners are advised” they should park outside. Shouldn’t that be highlighted in bold letters? And shouldn’t it say WHY they need to park outside? In my opinion this recall will lull people into a sense of complacency with the result that few will have any sense of the true danger or need to immediately address the problem.
Furthermore, why wait until November to start the recall? I’m sure there are logistical nightmares with a recall this large, but aren’t there always? Tell folks to bring in their cars to get the problem fixed. Today. And if not, tell them in no uncertain terms — clearly and in bold letters — that if they don’t park outside their house might burn down.
As was widely discussed last year, the GAO issued a report that only 70 percent of consumers have recall repairs on cars and trucks within 18 months after the recall. There are lots of reasons for this statistic, but surely those reasons include poor communication and failure to convey a sense of urgency about a particular hazard.
Whenever NHTSA or any manufacturer announces a recall they should hang a lantern on the specific problem and tell people what to do. Being cryptic about the real danger will result in people not taking their vehicles back to get fixed. Fewer vehicles being fixed saves money for the corporations who make defective product, but potentially causes much greater human losses for regular families who never knew they were at risk.