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Caveat Emptor is a Latin phrase that implies that a buyer of any product takes full responsibility for any issues that may arise with the product and there is no guarantee from the seller that it will meet. It is unfortunately also an easy way out for a lot of mainline industries to escape obligations and liabilities with defective products.

Many years ago, in the 1990s, a series of fatalities on the road in the US and in other countries led to rising concerns against vehicle safety. After lengthy investigations, it was discovered that a major US tire manufacturer was putting out defective tires which after some time on the road caused tread separation and eventual loss of control of the vehicle.

The tire manufacturer vehemently denied their culpability and blamed the automobile maker on which the tires were installed. When that was rejected with evidence by the car manufacturer, the tire company blamed the consumer for driving with underinflated tires.

As these tires were being mounted on new cars that were being also shipped worldwide, the deaths and accidents were not only limited to the US. Many incidents came to notice as car dealers in Saudi Arabia noticed high failure rates of tires in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Beginning in August 1999, the car agency that had the defective tires installed in Saudi Arabia began replacing them on unsold vehicles and offered steep discounts on replacement tires to customers who returned to the dealers for regular maintenance.

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More recently, a major US automaker recalled more than 238,000 popular SUVs in the U.S. because a rear axle bolt can fail, potentially causing a loss of drive power or allowing the SUVs to roll away while in a parked position. The recall followed an investigation by U.S. safety regulators opened an investigation into the problem after getting an increasing number of complaints from frustrated car owners that repairs did not work in two previous recalls this year and in 2022.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the defect lay in the rear axle horizontal mounting bolt which could fracture and cause the driveshaft to disconnect, increasing the risk of a crash with tragic consequences. Owners would have the corrections made to their vehicles once they took them to the dealer for routine service.

However, the recall is not limited to US brands of cars. Just last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued multiple recalls for more than 937,000 vehicles, including nearly 751,000 Japanese brand SUVs for issues with mounting tabs on vehicles' bumpers as well as some issues with a German make.

The globally popular German brand was listed because 'the ground connection and the steering wheel may have not been linked correctly, leading to a malfunction of the hands-on detection system.' When the hands-on detection system fails to notice when the driver's hands are not on the wheel then the emergency stopping assistance system will not work, which can increase the risk of a crash as reported.

Another European icon for sporty racing is recalling 614 of its 2022-2024 hybrid electric vehicles because the turbocharger oil delivery pipe may have been incorrectly put together.

This can cause an oil leak and increase the risk of a fire, according to a NHTSA report. Owners are going to be advised by letters that will be sent out on December 16 not to drive their vehicles until dealers can replace the turbocharger oil delivery pipes at no cost.

Caveat Emptor

Now if you are a car buyer like me, you rarely if ever get a follow-up call from the dealer who sold you your new vehicle, not in the first year, nor the second, and certainly not the third. So for the most part, unless you are an auto enthusiast and follow up on the latest on various websites, chances are that you will not know of any particular hazards relating to your car.

You see, dealers have crafted the Caveat Emptor to their fashion. It is only when you take your vehicle in to be serviced by them that any required modifications are done, and perhaps even at your expense. I do not go to the dealer much after the first year for routine maintenance as there are many other qualified and independent service centers that routinely service my vehicle in a more expedient and economical manner.

This was confirmed to me sometime back by a major auto dealer here who said that all recall modifications are done only when the customers bring their vehicles in for routine servicing. It seems that for all other customers, let the buyer beware.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena