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Recalls of Interest Awards, Spring 2013
The Automotive Safety Council web site has a regularly updated category called 'recalls of interest.' That's funny right there.
Posted April 07, 2013
True story: our crack editorial team was scouring sources for a good, solid, automotive news story and came across, by happy accident, the Automotive Safety Council's regularly updated feature called "Recalls of Interest." Okay, a few things here. First, that wording is just odd—and funny if you look at it right. It makes you think of police statements calling someone a "person of interest" as a euphemism for "a suspected criminal."

Also odd, if you don't see the funny, is the phrase itself. How do they decide which recalls are of interest? Aren't most or all recalls of interest? I suppose they have to come up with something other than just "Recalls," and "Recalls Related to Things That Might Kill You" is a bit grim.

At any rate, there are a lot of them, but we've whittled them down to the most newsworthy. Or rather, the most oddly-worded and carefully phrased so as not to instill panic. Some award-winning copywriting no matter how you spin it. There should be awards for this sort of thing. To wit:

Most Interesting Recalls of Interest Awards, Spring 2013

The Six Degrees of Automotive Malfunction Award. This award goes to the recall that manages to connect the greatest number of dots in constructing the sequence of events that would have to take place in order for the bad thing to happen that justifies the recall. This spring's proud winner is: Honda, for its recall of certain model year 2004 - 2008 Acuras!

In the recall notice, Honda explains that certain model year Acura TSX vehicles originally sold in, or currently registered in any of 23 listed states, may potentially have a certain problem with the carpets. Or rather, in its carpets. In these states, you see, it is legal to use certain corrosive materials for de-icing. If an Acura owner lives in one of these states, and if there's ice on the ground, and if they're in a place where the corrosive materials are used, then some of these materials may get on the driver's shoes. If that happens, then some of that material may get on the car's carpet. If there's enough of it, it might actually saturate the carpet. If that happens, the materials might get on the engine's Electronic Control Unit, and if it does, the ECU may rust or corrode. If it does rust or corrode, that could potentially cause the engine to stall. So, Honda will replace any damaged ECUs.

Whew. Honda also wins the "Effectively Demonstrating That You Take Recalls Really, Really Seriously" Award.

The "Can You Tell Our Lawyer Wrote This" Understatement of the Year Award. Really, most recall announcements should get this award. But it goes today to the recall announcement that displays the greatest distance between the seriousness of what it's saying and the language it uses to say it. The winner is PACCAR, who announced recently that it was recalling certain Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks because of possibly detached seat belts. You could also call this the "One Degree of Separation" award, because in contrast to Honda's recall above, there are only two steps in the sequence leading to very bad things. They are:

1. The seat belt cables may fray.
2. Then if you're in an accident, the seat belts could detach.

Yikes. Starting in April, PACCAR will replace the whole seat belt assembly. Please drive carefully until then.

The Oh, Yeah, I Knew That Must Be Someone Else's Fault Award. This award, which is given to the recall that takes the blame for a problem resulting from something you knew good and well you shouldn't be doing anyway, goes to: Toyota, for the hypothetical cracks in the back seat doors! Apparently, in some 2007—2013 FJ Cruisers, if you repeatedly slam the door really hard every time you close it, and continue doing this over a period of several years, the door may eventually develop cracks. If that happens, there's a chance that the front seat belt retractors could detach, which would certainly be bad.

So it's good that there's a recall. It's also good that there exist notions such as common sense and self-discipline, which should suffice to keep you from slamming cracks into your car door.

The Did You Forget The Temporary Partial Facial Paralysis? Award. This coveted award goes to the recall announcement whose list of defects and/or consequences most resembles a comically long list of prescription medication side effects. Also known as the "What To Do If Your Vehicle Defect Lasts Longer Than Four Hours" prize, it's awarded this time to
Hyundai (specifically Hyundai - Kia America Technical Center Inc) for its "Brake light Switch Recall." At the outset, this recall sounds simple enough; it appears to be a question of the brake lights not always coming on when they should for a bunch of different models made between 2007 and 2011. As the recall continues, though, you get gems like this calmly slipped into the mix: "The stop lamp switch in the affected vehicles may malfunction. A malfunctioning stop lamp switch may cause the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause an inability to deactivate the cruise control by depressing the brake pedal."

Let me get this straight: you'd hit the brake, and presumably the car would slow down while you were braking—but as soon as you took your foot off the brake, instead of coasting, the car would unexpectedly zoom back up to the cruise control speed? That's a little scary.

Then we get: "Additionally, a malfunctioning stop lamp switch may also result in intermittent operation of the push-button start feature, affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock feature, preventing the shifter from being moved out of the PARK position and cause the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) malfunction light to illuminate." Whoa—hang on a second there. Did you say "preventing the shifter from being moved out of PARK"?

We may have to rename this prize. The "Yeah, I'd Say That's A Pretty Big @!$% Problem" Award. Or we could just stick with "recall of interest," because if it doesn't actual kill you, it's only stopping you from driving in the first place. A nuisance of interest, really. Call your doctor.
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