Matt Greenop: Car owners must take share of responsibility

Owners need to take some responsibility for their cars. Photo / Thinkstock
Owners need to take some responsibility for their cars. Photo / Thinkstock

Cars break, that's an unfortunate reality. Nobody likes taking the blame for something going wrong with their vehicle, though there's usually a good reason for it. Many never get their cars serviced - some don't even bother washing them, as a quick look around you at the lights will prove. Wrecked tyres, brakes and suspension components don't usually get replaced until the nice man at VTNZ stamps a big FAIL on a Warrant of Fitness form. The guts is that in general, cars don't get looked after properly, and nobody wants to take responsibility.

Car companies, on the other hand, have no choice but to put their hands up when something relatively minor goes wrong - and often have to announce a recall when the chances of something bad actually happening are very, very remote.

Car recalls seem to be coming in thick and fast at the moment - the flood started back when a couple of American Prius drivers didn't understand what their cars' braking systems were doing, and then thousands of Toyota drivers jumped on the bandwagon in the hope of cashing in on a class action suit in the US.

Treating recalls like potential Lotto wins is a very American habit. Given the fact the majority of recalls are due to single-digit numbers of cars with faults, the alarmist reaction - due more to legislation, litigation and unbridled greed of a lot of people, car makers act very responsibly. Voluntary recalls aren't uncommon and show the caring face companies need to project, or get a kick in the sales sheet.

When the recall is ordered by various safety bodies, the publicity machine gathers speed and class actions appear out of nowhere. The truth is that every car is treated differently, and every car has faults. Owners need to take some responsibility - and the "floormat" cases over the last two years are a perfect example. Sensible people should realise that if their car mat is gathered under the pedals, or if the aftermarket rubber mat that they've stuck in to protect their car mat slips around, it's quite dangerous. If they don't pick up on this screamingly obvious fact, they shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel. It's not like car companies can take out class action lawsuits against dumb, irresponsible owners.

- NZ Herald

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