Volkswagen AG (VOW) is recalling about 2.64 million vehicles globally, including its biggest such recall in China, to fix electronic and drive-system flaws in some of its most popular models.
Volkswagen is recommending that mineral oil be used in dual-clutch gearboxes on 1.6 million cars and vans in place of synthetic oil, Michael Franke, a spokesman at the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company, said yesterday by phone. Another 800,000 Tiguan compact sport-utility-vehicles may have lighting defects and 239,000 Amarok pickups should be fixed for fuel leaks, the manufacturer said yesterday.
The recalls this month by Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, as well as Chrysler Group LLC (F), Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (7211) highlight the drawbacks of adding increasingly sophisticated technology to new models. Nissan Motor Co. hired the senior auto reviewer for Consumer Reports magazine in the U.S. as its executive adviser on vehicle quality last year, citing the need to “keep pace with” product complexity.
“This isn’t a VW-specific problem, it’s one of the things that happen at mass-market carmakers,” Frank Schwope, a Hanover, Germany-based analyst at Nord LB, said by phone. “Costs will probably be in the high double-digit or even triple-digit million-euro range. They might be partly shared with suppliers involved, but they still make VW’s full-year earnings target more difficult to reach.”
The lubricant replacement in seven-speed dual-clutch gearboxes is intended to prevent electric malfunctions. VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brand vehicles are targeted by the program, Franke said. A Chinese regulator said yesterday that 640,309 cars in that country are affected.
VW recalled 384,181 vehicles in China in March after state television featured complaints about vibrations, loss of power and sudden acceleration in models including the Golf, its best-selling car worldwide. That repair program, also involving dual-clutch gearbox flaws, prompted a public apology by Jochem Heizmann, chief of the carmaker’s Chinese business, at the Shanghai auto show in April.
The repair and replacement programs announced by Volkswagen yesterday compare with recalls of 10 million vehicle by Toyota in 2009 and 2010 for possible flaws related to unintended acceleration, including sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that could shift out of position. The Japanese carmaker won a federal judge’s approval in July of a settlement with U.S. consumers suing the company over lost resale value that plaintiff lawyers valued at as much as $1.63 billion.
Toyota said on Nov. 6 that it’s recalling 4,000 Tacoma 4-cylinder pickups in the U.S. to fix engine valve springs. It’s also recalling 1,180 vehicles in China for a similar problem, that country’s regulator said. Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler said on Nov. 8 that it’s recalling about 1.2 million Ram trucks to fix a steering-system part. Mitsubishi’s program involves a combined 96,800 vehicles in Japan for headline or engine-component flaws.
China, the world’s largest auto market, is a critical market for VW’s strategy to become the world’s largest automaker by 2018 while making up for a European industry that’s shrinking for a sixth straight year.
The gearbox-lubricant fault particularly affects vehicles driving in hot and humid weather in urban areas with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, Volkswagen said yesterday. The problem can be fixed by using mineral oil in place of synthetic oil, it said.
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