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Honda joins Toyota’s brake fluid follies

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Posted: 8 am ET

Honda joined Toyota this week in announcing an upcoming recall of faulty brake systems that leak brake fluid in its cars. The recall will affect around 470,000 2005-2007 Acura RL sedans and Honda Odyssey minivans.

The 2007 Acura RL is one of the Honda cars being recalled for the same brake problems affecting Toyotas.

The 2007 Acura RL is one of the Honda cars being recalled for the same brake problems affecting Toyotas.

The Detroit News is reporting the master cylinders for both automakers came from the same parts supplier: Advics Co. Ltd. in Japan. In fact, Honda only learned of the problem thanks to Toyota's investigation:

Honda said it doesn't know how many of the vehicles may fail or have failed. It said it was alerted to Toyota's investigation of the issue on Sept. 16.

In a way, this recall reminds me of the massive, melamine-related pet food recalls of 2007. In addition to the PR disaster that resulted from the deaths of many beloved family pets, some pet food brands were embarrassed when it was revealed that their supposedly high-quality products were manufactured alongside cheaper generic food.

Like the dog food debacle, this joint recall is illustrative of why those who make car buying decisions based on branding do so at their own peril: auto companies spend a lot of time differentiating themselves from other automakers, telling us how much better/faster/more advanced their cars are than their rivals', but the parts that go into their cars are often built by the same suppliers in the exact same factories.

That's why it's so important to look at individual models' reliability records rather than which brand the car is sold under.

This additional wrinkle in the Toyota brake system saga in a way makes Toyota look a little better. It gives the impression they've gotten more aggressive about investigating manufacturing defects than some of their competitors (I'm looking at you, Honda.)

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