After a year that saw a record number of vehicle recalls in India, carmakers are tightening their quality checks with a clampdown on the weakest link in their supply chains — the small vendors.
Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, the country’s largest carmaker, is taking a lead in scrutinising supplies from small manufacturers. “An area of concern, not only for Maruti Suzuki, but for the entire industry, is the need for improvement in the quality of components. There have been several recalls in the industry, and most of them originate from the components supplied by small manufacturers. The government is legislating to deal with recalls, but it is perhaps even more important to review the supply chain arrangement to correct the identified weaknesses and reduce recalls,” according to RC Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India.
A Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) executive said that while the South Korean car major — the country’s second largest carmaker — was continuously working with vendors, there was a focus on getting smaller tier-3 vendors to upgrade quality specifications. In response to an official query on the quality issue, an HMIL spokesperson said: “…Our vendor team works closely with them (suppliers) to facilitate the onboarding process, going to the extent of training the vendor employees on new technologies at our parent company, familiarizing them with latest manufacturing trends, appraising them of new models or even bringing them up to speed with our sales forecasts… At an operating level, every issue is jointly addressed by HMIL and the concerned company, when they arise and post resolution, a detailed study is conducted to identify the main points and remedial measures are put in place. This strategy of long term association has paid off for us as it gives our vendors the confidence to stay invested in the association”.
India is among the top seven automotive markets in the world but the country lacks a recall policy. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers had announced a voluntary recall policy in July 2012, specifying that companies must follow standard procedures on detecting manufacturing defects. The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), which has representatives from the automotive industry and with an affiliation to the ministry of industry, is also learnt to be working on introducing a 'Vehicle Recall Code' to be notified under the Central Motor Vehicles Rules.
The year 2014 saw a spate of recalls, cutting across vehicle manufacturers. These included a sharp spurt in recall announcements in December, including a big Volkswagen AG recall early last month. On December 2, the government had instructed the German auto firm to recall 323,000 vehicles, making it the largest such recall in the country. The Honda recall of September was till then the biggest vehicle recall in India, followed by the recall of 1.66 lakh units by Ford India of its Figo hatchback and Fiesta Classic sedan in September 2013.
On December 10, Honda Motor's Indian arm, Honda Cars India Ltd announced a recall of 90,210 units of its City mid-segment sedan and the Mobilio multi-purpose vehicle manufactured between December 2013 to July 2015 to replace fuel return pipe. On October 23, Honda Cars India had announced that it would voluntary recall 3,879 units of its continuously variable transmission (CVT) variants of Honda City manufactured from February 2014 to November 2014 to update the software that manages the continuously variable transmission as part of Honda’s recall campaign in several regions globally. Earlier, on September 18, Honda Cars India had announced that it will voluntarily replace airbag inflators of 223,578 vehicles of previous generations of CR-V, Civic, City and Jazz as part of Honda's preventive global recall campaign concerning airbag inflators. A HCIL spokesperson did not respond to a mail sent by The Indian Express on the quality issue.
On December 15, General Motors India recalled over one lakh units of the Beat Diesel, manufactured between December 2010 and July 2014, to replace faulty clutch pedal lever.