The Tale of Two Car Recalls

In a study of contrasts, Chrysler balked at recalling older model Jeeps prone to fires in rear-end collisions while Tesla founder publicly apologized for a faulty seat latch, offering to pick up vehicles and pay for rental cars to ease the inconvenience.Tesla Motors voluntarily recalled 1,400 of its Model S electric cars because of a potentially faulty seat latch. Chrysler demurred, but finally agreed, under federal regulatory pressure, to recall 1.56 million Jeep SUVs that may pose fire risks from rear-impact collisions.

What a contrast.

Elon Musk, Tesla's founder, issued a statement on the company's website explaining the problem and personally apologizing. The company described the recall as voluntary following testing that raised questions about the integrity of the latch and noted it had received no consumer complaints. 

Chrysler officials characterized its recall as a "voluntary campaign," even though it balked at the recall — despite a June 3 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asserting the design of some Jeep SUVs was dangerous because of where the fuel tank was located. The agency pointed to 37 fiery crashes and 51 fatalities related to the design flaw. Concerned citizens collected 127,000 signatures on a petition asking for Chrysler to recall 1.56 million Jeep SUVs. 

Tesla's statement carefully explained the seat latch problem and its proposed solution.

Chrysler, who continues to claim their older model Jeep SUVs are safe, dismissed the recommendations of some car experts and "solved" the problem by agreeing to install trailer hitches on the SUVs. The solution didn't satisfy many who had complained about the safety of the Jeeps.

Tesla plans to tell owners affected by its recall that the car company will pick up their Model S and provide a rental car, if needed, to limit their inconvenience while a repair is made. 

Chrysler came up with a complicated alert system to fetch affected vehicle owners to its dealerships, even though owners of older vehicles are prime candidates to sell a new vehicle.

Car companies should and usually do recall vehicles with defects, especially those that pose safety hazards for passengers. Failure to recall a vehicle cited by the NHTSA can open up a car manufacturer to damaging, expensive lawsuits, not to mention denting their reputation and sales appeal of new models. 

Consumers might forgive a design flaw in a 20-year-old vehicle. They are less forgiving about a manufacturer's reticence to own and fix the problem now.