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Shortest month draws long faces as recalls add to industry woes

Spring might be on the way, but a spate of negative headlines has many automotive manufacturers still feeling the winter blues. Plummeting stock markets are likely to hurt new car sales as people hold off on purchases, while the threat of a global outbreak has forced the cancellation of numerous trade shows around the world.

Supply chains have been heavily disrupted in the past month, yet there was no relief when it came to recalls with 54 new notifications issued by countries across Europe, putting 2020 on course to easily outstrip the previous five years in terms of overall recalls. Unsurprisingly, injury risks were the number one reason cited (48), with fire (9), and electric shock (1) following far behind.

One positive to note is that, despite a rising number of environmental-related recalls which saw notifications jump four-fold between 2018 and 2019, none were registered in February. With new regulations mandating that carmakers cut average fleet emissions to less than 95g of CO2/km by 2021 or face stiff penalties, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

When it came to spotting problems and issuing alerts, Germany once again leads the way (35), followed by Portugal (7), the UK (4), France (3), Belgium (3), Italy (1), and Poland (1). In terms of the countries of origin, there was a lot more variation, although Germany still leads the way (24). Behind Germany was France (11), Japan (4), the United States (3), the UK (2), Portugal (2), and Italy (2). South Korea, Austria, China, Slovakia, Indonesia, and Czechia all had one apiece.

A material question

There have been many consequences to the disruption to global supply chains seen in February, one of which is that factories are set to start running out of materials within a few weeks as supplies from Asia dry up. This is expected to cause some short-term shortfalls in manufacturing numbers, but modern enterprises often have alternative suppliers in other geographies and will look to exploit those back up supply chains as quickly as possible.

Yet changing suppliers, especially with the ‘just in time’ model used by most OEMs is no mean feat as it can introduce a host of new variables and risks into the production process. Therefore, it’s important that manufacturers are rigorously checking any supplier transitions to avoid errors creeping in and leading to faulty vehicles being shipped to dealerships.

However, even if every precaution is taken to ensure that shifting suppliers is done smoothly, problems can still occur. Now more than ever, manufacturers need to take the time to review their recall processes to make sure they’re ready for the unexpected.

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