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Digital versus mechanical in automotive recalls

Our Q2 insights report is almost ready for publication so you can expect to read some interesting intelligence around automotive recalls very soon. In the meantime, we wanted to look at what’s been happening in Europe in the last couple of weeks to whet your appetite ahead of our quarterly update.

It has been a busy few weeks for the European Commission – in weeks 28 and 29, the rapid alert system recorded 29 separate recall notifications, with submissions from Belgium, France, Czechia, Portugal, Germany and Austria – all described as posing a serious risk to motorists. Interestingly, only two of the technical defects listed were due to digital technology.

The rise in automation and digital technology in the design and manufacturing process has led many to believe that we will see an upsurge in related recalls – and that has been the case for quite some time. It will be interesting to see if these last two weeks have been the exception, or if the trend in digital tech-related recalls has subsided in the longer term.

Looking at the digital tech-related recalls, in this instance one was connected to a Japanese motorbike which was cited for misprogramming of the engine control unit (ECU), which may lead to fire due to high temperature of the exhaust gas.

The other recall was a passenger car, cited because the emergency call service may not be functioning. As a result, the system may have been unable to assist the driver by contacting the call centre/rescue coordination centre in the event of an accident. Not all cars come with this kind of technology - however, those that do must have it in full working order before it can be permitted into the consumer market.

More traditional issues continue to rear their head. Problems noted in the last two weeks include air bubbles in the engine cooling system which risked overheating and an ambulance which was recalled because the seats in the medical cabin could become detached in an accident. And several other brands and models pulled their products because of defects with seatbelts, brakes, gas tanks, and oil feeds.

The industry is evolving at a rapid pace as new tech players enter the market, but it remains to be seen if the digital revolution will outpace good old fashioned mechanical issues when it comes to recall notifications – a question we’ll help answer in the Q2 Index in a matter of weeks. Keep your eyes open for it.

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