Safety-related flaws at inacceptable level, study concludes

January 19, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
After the negative record in 2014, when in the USA alone 108 million vehicles were called back into the garages, the year 2015 again saw a very high number of call-back actions. The Center of Automotive Management (Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany) has sorted the call-back campaigns by reasons and manufacturers. Problem field number one 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 percent of all recalls. Electric and electronic ranked second at 14.2 percent whereas power train defects were responsible for 8.2 percent 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 which expresses the number of cars affected by a recall campaign over the number of newly admitted vehicles in a given year, amounted to 262 percent in the US 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 percent 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%, Mazda 755% and Honda 676%. These high numbers are mainly associated to the Takata airbag problem; in the case of Mazda, more than 50 percent were related