It seems not a week goes by without news of a safety-related vehicle recall. Recently Toyota have recalled five million cars for steering, water pump, and accelerator problems; GM are recalling millions of cars with potentially defective ignition switches, and there was the recall of two and a half million Honda cars with software problems.
Unfortunately, an uncomfortable number of recalls involve lighting.
Just lately alone, 50,000 Dodge Chargers and 160,000 Volkswagen Passats, 200,000 Mercedes C-Class, 100,000 Chev Corvettes, 500,000 Pontiacs, and 130,000 BMW 5ers have been recalled for lighting problems in North America alone. In China, 200,000 VW Tiguans have been recalled for lighting fixes. And these large numbers don’t include sub-recall actions that might be classified as “repair campaigns” or technical service bulletins, nor resolutions reached by quiet agreement between the automaker and the supplier without public communication. This week we look at the big lighting-related recalls of the past 12 months.
A single recall can involves multiple production years and multiple production plants, affecting enormous numbers of cars and creating huge costs; as lighting systems grow more intricate and JIT supply chains grow leaner, a recall grows more and more expensive relative to the cost of the components. Vast engineering and production resources can be demanded on a costly urgent to make the necessary changes on a hurried schedule, thus robbing those resources from the already-pressed new-vehicle projects. We never forget such a disaster! In a case like this, the technical solution and its cost optimisation create a real emergency. I still remember a particular recall which occurred in the early 2000s when I was in charge of R&D at Valeo. The resources needed to solve the problem were immense.
As DVN has reported, different regulatory systems can create very different recall logistics. Vehicle lighting systems are becoming ever more complicated with ever-increasing pressure to shorten development cycles and bring more new models to market with more new features—and there’s an industry-wide shortage of resources to make sure these accelerated launches happen without problems. We have to be cautious on reliability not only for complex system architecture and electronics but also for basic components like connectors, wires, lenses, materials, and build quality.
DVN Editor in Chief