Indian car and 2W OEMs recall 284,906 vehicles in 2023, 5.35 million since 2012 | Autocar Professional

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CY2023, which turned out to be strong year of sales growth for the passenger vehicle and two-wheeler segments in India, is done and dusted. Car and SUV sales scaled a new high at 4.10 million units and two-wheeler sales crossed the 17-million-units mark. Annual production numbers for these two segments were also on the higher side: PVs at 47,83,628 units, up 8% and two-wheelers at 2,71,43,580, up 5 percent. CY2023 also saw a total of 284,906 vehicles comprising PVs and two-wheelers being voluntarily recalled by their manufacturers (OEMs) to inspect for a likely defect, and carry out remedial work which may mean replacement of the affected component or update technology, free of cost, to the consumer.

A vehicle recall is when a manufacturer or a legal entity determines that a particular model needs to have a repair in order to comply with all the safety standards. Despite massive development budgets and plenty of computer simulations as well as stringent road and track tests, defects in vehicles still get revealed in the real world. This is when the need for a vehicle recall becomes paramount, more so with growing consumer awareness about vehicle and road safety. 

As per official industry data for passenger vehicles and two-wheelers published by apex industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), in CY2023, a total of 284,906 vehicles were recalled by their manufacturers. They involved three motorcycle OEMs (Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Suzuki Motorcycle India and Triumph Motorcycles India) and five carmakers (Maruti Suzuki India, Mercedes-Benz India, Skoda Auto Volkswagen India, Skoda India and Toyota Kirloskar Motor) who recalled 122,068 bikes and 162,838 vehicles respectively.

Volume-wise, the largest vehicle recall in India last year was Honda’s – 77,012 units of the CB350 RS and H’ness CB350 DLX 1 and DLX2 motorcycles, manufactured between October 10, 2020 and January 18, 2023. The reason cited by the company was: “Due to an improper process being followed to manufacture the rubber parts of the rear stop light, may lead to development of crack on the rubber parts. This might cause water entry and corrosion.”

The second largest recall was Skoda Auto India’s for 60,464 Volkswagen four-wheelers for the CY2007-2014 period. The reason cited was “On Volkswagen models (Polo, Vento, Passat, Caravelle, Multivan and Transporter) manufactured between 2007 and 2014 with a front airbag of the Takata make, the gas generator, if subjected to high humidity and temperature fluctuations, its housing may get damaged and may pose a risk of injury to the vehicle occupants, due to dislodged fragments.”

Maruti Suzuki effected three separate recalls covering 35,752 units. The first was on January 17 for 17,362 petrol/CNG variants of the Alto K-10, S-Presso, Eeco, Brezza, Baleno and Grand Vitara to check for “a possible defect the airbag controller, which in rare case might result in non-deployment of the airbags and seat belt pretensioners, in the event of a vehicle crash.” The second recall was six days later for 11,177 petrol-engined Grand Vitara SUVs to check the likelihood of “a possible defect in rear seatbelt mounting brackets, which in rare case, may loosen in the long run, and may impact its functionality.” And, on April 21, the company recalled 7,213 Baleno RS hatchbacks for a“possible defect in vacuum pump (parts) which assists the brake function. In a rare case, the affected vehicle may require increased effort in brake pedal application.”

In what is an indication of the extremely high priority it accords to safety, luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz India, in 25 separate recalls starting January 10 through to December 15, 2023 accounted for a total of 31,200 units.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor recalled 5,968 units last year in three separate instances, all of them in January, involving the Urban Cruiser Hyryder SUV and the Glanza hatchback.

Over 5.35 million vehicles recalled in India since July 2012

In what is an indicator of a maturing automotive market, after SIAM’s Code of Voluntary Recall came into effect in July 2012, a total of 53,51,935 vehicles or 5.35 million units have been recalled in India (see data table below).

A total of 23 OEMs – 16 carmakers and 7 two-wheeler manufacturers – make up this list of recalls over the past 10 years comprising 39,09,465 cars and SUVs (73% of total recalls) and 14,42,470 two-wheelers (27%).

While SIAM’s voluntary recall code has paved the way to a structured vehicle recall exercise in India, the operation got another charge in April 2021. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) has, effective from April 1, 2021, mandated stiff fines, which go up to Rs 1 crore, on vehicle manufacturers.

Vehicle recalls also indicate the maturing of the Indian market as also the improving quality of Indian vehicles which is also seen in growing export numbers. Importantly, vehicle recalls reflect Indian OEMs’ proactive efforts to address technical issues in their vehicles, as is the industry practice in developed countries.

The onus though remains on OEMs and its supplier ecosystem to consistently sharpen the focus on quality and ensure the products entering the market are ‘first-time-right’, which in turn positively impact both consumer and market sentiment.

Proactive approach to recalls pays off

Even as the quality of Indian vehicles, as well as made-in-India automotive components, continues to improve year on year, as seen also in the growing domestic and export sales numbers, vehicle recalls also reflect Indian OEMs’ proactive efforts to address technical issues in their vehicles, as is the industry practice in developed markets worldwide. 

Furthermore, given the growing consumer consciousness about vehicle safety and buyer preference for safer vehicles in the country, OEMs are increasingly proactive about issuing a recall and undertaking remedial measures by contacting the impacted vehicle owners, informing them of the recall procedure and conducting the exercise. Enhanced customer satisfaction as a result of the OEM initiative, usually free of cost, also has a positive rub-off on the brand which is critical in the hugely competitive Indian two- and four-wheeler market.  

In earlier interactions with Autocar Professional on the subject of vehicle recalls, industry leaders have voiced the importance of being completely transparent about any possible quality or technical defects in vehicles. Market analysts, however, are of the opinion that while one-off recall events may be perceived positively by customers as a reflection of continued customer care from an OEM, repeated issues from the same maker are likely to shake the confidence of existing customers and prospective buyers.

As Autocar says, recalls are a sad fact of automotive life. Despite exhaustive testing and daunting development budgets, defects in vehicles still get revealed only after thousands of examples encounter the real world, away from the development tracks and computer simulations. With the Indian government putting its shoulder behind the wheel of increased safety awareness, and a marked shift amongst consumer towards buying safer vehicles, OEMs are proactively recalling their vehicles to have remedial work carried out, almost always at the cost of the original manufacturer, not the consumer. It’s a safety-catch for automotive.

All in all, the onus remains on OEMs and their supplier ecosystem to continually sharpen the focus on quality and ensure the products entering the market are ‘first-time-right’, which in turn positively impact both consumer and market sentiment.

Vehicle recall data: courtesy SIAM
All images used are representational

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