One source of safety difficulties automakers face is the increasing complexity of design. The average car now has about 15,000 parts, most coming from a global network of suppliers.
Regulators call out Lamborghinis for weak brake-rotor bolts.
Table of Contents:
- EU Takes Coordinated Approach to Auto Recalls
- Design Complexity, Cost Cutting Add Hurdles
BRUSSELS – When an automaker issues a recall, there are a number of short- and long-term implications including the cost of repairing the vehicles, any legal costs that might arise and, of course, its reputation.
But Paul Nieuwenhuis, co-director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School in the U.K., says companies often decide to cut corners when manufacturing a vehicle, determining the costs associated with issuing a resulting recall would be worth it.
“We have heard records of meetings taking place where people have made that calculation. We like to think these things don’t happen, but in the end it does come down to money,” he says. “And it’s only by threatening the full force of the law and complete loss of credibility and trust in the market that will change that mindset.”
Nieuwenhuis’ comments follow the release of the annual consumer report by the European Union’s rapid-alert system on dangerous consumer products (RAPEX), assessing consumer alerts and recalls made in the federation during 2013. Motor vehicles were among the top categories of dangerous products notified through the system, according to a report by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
Of the 2,364 notifications sent through the system last year, 160 were related to motor vehicles. The notified products posed risks of burns, fire and injury, according to the RAPEX report. They represented 7% of all notifications, with the motor-vehicle category holding at the same percentage as in 2012.
A notification is made through RAPEX when an EU member state has identified and taken measures regarding a specific dangerous product. Other member countries can react to a notification by withdrawing the vehicles from the market, banning their sale or recalling them, or by disagreeing with the risk-assessment measures taken by the notifying country. A vehicle declared dangerous that has reached the border will be turned back by customs authorities, according to the RAPEX report.
Germany sent the most notifications related to dangerous motor vehicles last year, 59, followed by Portugal (30), Spain (23) and Greece (21). The manufacturing origin and nature of the problems reported varied widely, including Chinese-made steering-wheel covers infused with potentially dangerous chemicals, a faulty electronic component of a DC-DC converter in some Japan-made Mazdas, a U.S.-made Mercedes-Benz with weak rear seatbelt anchors and weak rotor bolts in Italy-built Lamborghinis.