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Alarmingly high recall rate drags automotive safety

Posted: 21 Jan 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:automotive  safety  recall  car industry  GM 

Germany-based Centre of Automotive Management has revealed something that the automotive industry as a whole should spend a considerable time sitting down on for a solid solution. The organisation has revealed that after a negative record in 2014, when in the U.S. 108 million vehicles were called back into the garages, 2015 again saw a very high number of call-back actions. Making things worse than it is, the number one problem was the safety technology.

According to the study, faulty safety equipment in the cars was by far the most numerous reason for car vendors to launch a call-back campaign. In particular the defective airbags sold by Japanese supplier Takata contributed to the high number of vehicles affected. Overall, safety-related problems accounted for 60.1 per cent of all recalls. Electric and electronic ranked second at 14.2 per cent whereas power train defects were responsible for 8.2 per cent of the problems.

The increasing amount of electronics and software in the vehicles, though beneficial for new customer-related functions, is contributing significantly to increasing the risk of a malfunction, the study states, referring to the Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) recall action due to a hacking attack to electronic vehicle functions. This problem alone resulted in a recall action with a 6-digit number of vehicles involved. In this context, the author of the study, Stefan Bratzel, called for new approaches in the quality management. Not only for new vehicle functions but also for an improved product quality, carmakers will have to carry out over-the-air software updates, Bratzel wrote.

The recall quota that expresses the number of cars affected by a recall campaign over the number of newly admitted vehicles in a given year, amounted to 262 per cent in the U.S. as reference market. Thus, in 2015 more than twice as many vehicles were subject to a recall than were sold as new; 45.8 million vehicles had to visit the garage in the context of a recall. While in 2014 this quota was much higher and hit the 379 per cent mark, the study still called the 2015 level inacceptable and described the quality management in the car industry as in need of improvement.

Japanese ranked highest in this negative list. Mitsubishi featured a recall quota of 826 per cent, Mazda 755 per cent and Honda 676 per cent. These high numbers are mainly associated to the Takata airbag problem; in the case of Mazda, more than 50 per cent were related to ignition switch problems with vehicles built in the 1990 decade.

Tesla had a recall quota of 249 per cent, which places the brand in the middle range. Problems with the safety belt triggered a recall campaign that hit all Model S vehicles built between 2012 and 2015. After GMs ignition switch problem in 2014 which affected 27 million vehicles, GM achieved a recall quota of only 133 per cent, placing the company in the upper third. The German brands achieved recall quotas of 168 per cent (BMW), Volkswagen (111 per cent) and Daimler (94 per cent) not really convincing commented Bratzel. Volkswagen's 580,000 vehicles that have to be recalled as a consequence of the company's exhaust gas scandal however are not considered as safety relevant but as electronics related. Like the Japanese manufacturers, Volkswagen and BMW had problems with defective airbags. VW and Audi also had some problems with brakes and leaky fuel lines.

The study also names the best brand: This honour is due to Volvo: A recall quota of just 18 per cent and a total amount of just 10,000 vehicles affected makes the Swedish manufacturer number one carmaker in terms of quality.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
  EE Times Europe

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