Singapore

Puzzle over Uber's Vezel recall claim

LTA contradicts ride-hailing firm, says only 9 per cent of cars had defect fixed

Only 9 per cent of Uber's fleet of defective Honda Vezel cars have been fixed, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA)'s records, the agency said yesterday.

This contradicts Uber's earlier claim that all its affected Vezels, which could catch fire, had been repaired.

LTA added that Uber had 1,200 of the affected cars, which were among some 11,000 Vezels imported here.

An LTA spokesman said 25 per cent of all Vezels imported here have been rectified.

She said the figures were "based on last available information provided by importers and dealers".

While it is not illegal for dealers to sell cars affected by a recall, the law requires them to inform potential buyers of any relevant recall.

"The buyers of such vehicles are also required to acknowledge that they have been informed of the defect and to undertake to send in their vehicle for rectification," the LTA spokesman added.

Asked repeatedly if it has replaced the defective parts in all 1,200 cars, Uber would only say it is "working closely with LTA and importers to ensure that LTA's records are up to date".

LTA was responding to queries arising from a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report that Uber had knowingly bought and rented out Vezels that were defective - a point the American ride-hailing firm has not denied.

A recall for the faulty cars was initiated in April last year to fix an inadequate electrical capacitor in the car's stop-start mechanism, which switches off the engine when the car is waiting at traffic lights or kept stationary - to save fuel - and restarts it when the driver steps on the accelerator.

The Straits Times understands that a large proportion of Uber's Honda Vezel fleet came from Singapore-based Sunrita, a parallel importer Uber is embroiled in a legal tussle with over late delivery of cars.

According to the WSJ report, Uber's senior management came to know of the flaw and recommended that the vehicles be taken back from drivers to avoid "unnecessary risk".

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But its Singapore general manager Warren Tseng said in an e-mail that the plan would cost the company about $1.4 million in driver wages, rental fees and parking costs.

One affected car caught fire in January this year. No one was hurt.

When asked to comment, Uber spokesman Leigh Wong said: "As soon as we learned of a Honda Vezel... catching fire, we took swift action to fix the problem, in close coordination with Singapore's LTA as well as technical experts.

"But we acknowledge we could have done more - and we have done so. We have introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts... to ensure we are fully responsive to safety recalls.

"Since the beginning of the year, we have pro-actively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber."

Mr Wong would not say what the six other recalls were but redirected ST to an LTA webpage, which listed 27 recalls in the past six months.

Honda's authorised agent Kah Motor said this is one reason why it imports only models deemed export-ready by Honda.

While its cars are also fitted with the stop-start feature, the flaw was fixed before the vehicles left for Singapore. Hence, they are not part of the recall campaign.

The Vezel was Singapore's top selling car for 2015 and last year, when one out of every two cars parallel importers sold was a Vezel.

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