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Wow, if something that affects basic functionality happened on a car or many other consumer goods there would be a recall. I guess 24-70 owners are out of $2000 with no recourse. Good to know. Given that distance scales are largely useless on lenses nowadays, I would be tempted to stick electrician's tape on it of I owned the 24-70.
It is not at all like that. Automobiles and some consumer products are recalled when there is a safety hazard. Non-hazardous defects in consumer products are usually covered by warranties. In case the defect is pervasive and prevalent, the manufacturer may choose to advise consumers to return the product for free repair/replacement to fend off possible class action suits that the product is not fit for use. However, they have to decide on a case by case basis.
The 24-70 Nikkor defect is similar in a way to the first early defective batch of Canon 24-105 lenses. Canon elected to replace the entire lens instead of repairing them, since the numbers involved were few (1000 or so) and it was caught very early. I think the 24-70 Nikkor situation lasted longer than that and/or a larger number of lenses was affected.