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Exclusive: Aston Martin Recalls 1,658 Cars, China Blamed

British sports car maker Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd is ordering a global recall of 1,658 Vantage cars after problems with a routine transmission software update.

Reuters

Updated:June 21, 2017, 5:45 PM IST
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Exclusive: Aston Martin Recalls 1,658 Cars, China Blamed
Aston Martin V8 Vantage S Great Britain Edition. (Photo: AFP Relaxnews)
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British sports car maker Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd is ordering a global recall of 1,658 Vantage cars after problems with a routine transmission software update led to incidents in China in which some cars stalled and lost power, its CEO told Reuters.

Chief executive Andy Palmer said the decision was taken after a team of Aston Martin engineers went to China in May to investigate a problem that several customers there had been complaining about since 2014.

"Normally (recalls) start in America. I don't think it is the only example, but it's interesting that it started from China and becomes a global recall," Palmer told Reuters by telephone. "It demonstrates the importance of China, the sophistication of the customer and the diligence of the authority there."

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The luxury carmaker, famous for making the car driven by secret agent James Bond, sold 3,259 cars globally last year, nearly 8 percent of them in China.

Aston Martin's plan was conveyed on Tuesday to Chinese regulatory agencies that had taken up the issue after dissatisfied customers complained. Formal documents would be submitted by the end of the European day, Palmer said.

Chinese authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

Palmer did not say how much the recall would cost, but knowledgeable people close to the company estimated the total cost at around 300,000 pounds ($380,760).

The recall will cover 1,658 Vantage cars built between June 2010 and September 2013 with the Sportshift I and Sportshift II automated manual transmission gearboxes, including 113 that were sold in China. The Vantage is the only Aston Martin model with a semi-manual shift.

Palmer said the problem occurred because some dealerships in China failed to reset the clutch position after software updates to the automatic transmission system.

“In the normal course of events, when you make a software change, you have to re-teach the engagement position of the clutch. And most of our dealers around the world automatically did that,” he said.

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The stalling caused a complete loss of power in some cases, shutting off the engine and power to the electrically-assisted steering and brakes, making it extremely difficult for a driver to guide the car safely to a stop.

Palmer, who joined Aston Martin from Nissan Motor Co in late 2014, said the company knows of 21 instances of potential sudden engine stall, all in China.

Zhang Jia'ao, a 32-year-old partner at a Beijing-based venture capital firm, did not get a refund.

He told Reuters he bought his Vantage S coupe from the Guo dealership for 2.35 million yuan ($344,287) in 2013, and sold it 11 months later to a used-car dealer for 1.23 million yuan ($180,201) after a series of stalls, some at high speed.

On one occasion, following a complete loss of power, Zhang only managed to slow the car down by repeatedly bumping the tires against the kerb, he said.

"It was too dangerous," Zhang said.

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