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Cost Cuts Spur Record Car Recalls in Japan
By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia auto correspondent

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese auto makers have achieved unprecedented cost savings by using common parts across different models, but that is leading to a surge in product recalls.

In the fiscal year that ended last month, the number of cars, trucks and motorbikes recalled hit a record-high 4.42 million in Japan -- equivalent to one in 17 vehicles on the road -- and up 47 percent from fiscal 2002, official data showed.

Industry executives and experts blame much of the rise on the growing practice of parts sharing, which is also spreading across different brands and countries as many auto makers form global alliances to weather fierce competition.

"Some defects don't appear right away, so as auto makers build more vehicles in the meantime using the same components, they end up having to recall a lot more when the glitch is found," said Masafumi Morita, a transport ministry official in charge of vehicle recalls.

Indeed, the number of recall cases -- as opposed to the number of vehicles they affected -- rose by a smaller 20 percent to 204 last fiscal year, suggesting that quality had not necessarily deteriorated as dramatically.

And Japanese car makers still lead their global peers in quality, a benchmark U.S. survey by J.D. Power and Associates shows. In 2003, Toyota and Honda were ranked first and fourth, although U.S. and European firms have narrowed the gap.

Quality is not uniformly better though. Mitsubishi ranked second-last in the 2003 J.D. Power survey with 148 problems per 100 vehicles, with Nissan on 135 ranked below the industry average of 133. Toyota had 115 and Honda 126. Toyota's Lexus luxury brand is judged the world's best quality with 76. But with more Japanese drivers getting notices to bring their vehicles in for repair, brand reputation will suffer, analysts said.

"Brand power is going to be low for car makers that have the biggest recall ratios," Nikko Citigroup analyst Noriyuki Matsushima said. "That's inevitable."

Industry insiders and experts point out a sudden jump at Honda Motor over the past few years -- with roughly half of its vehicles in Japan recalled during the past five years.

Honda said the usage of a faulty ignition switch and sound units across different models was largely to blame, but added that a new program introduced in 2001 to more aggressively hunt for defects was also responsible.


Full Multi-page article here

 

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Shhh. Don't let anyone know that except for Honda and Toyota, Japanese quality is decidedly average.
shhh... don't let anyone know that the only two car manufacturers you need to worry about are Honda and Toyota..... #1 and #2 midsize car sales are Camry and Accord....
 

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Originally posted by usa1@Apr 9 2004, 09:08 PM
Shhh. Don't let anyone know that except for Honda and Toyota, Japanese quality is decidedly average.

Mark
"Industry insiders and experts point out a sudden jump at Honda Motor over the past few years -- with roughly half of its vehicles in Japan recalled during the past five years. "

How exactly then is it that Honda is a bright spot? Where is the fabled Japanese quality again?
 
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