Porsche is recalling all 11,300 of the Panamera sports cars it has so far sold due a potentially faulty seatbelt tensioner.
The problem with the maker’s first-ever four-door comes as an embarrassing stutter in the launch of the long-awaited Panamera – and an even more troubling setback for a brand that had been steadily climbing to the top of the automotive quality charts, in recent years.
Porsche’s announcement coincided with the latest in the ongoing series of recalls by Toyota, which announced it will have to make repairs to an electronic control system on 50,000 of its 2003-model Sequoia SUVs.
In another coincident, the recall of the 2010 Porsche Panamera comes as a new study by the global consulting firm, Millward Brown, shows the Porsche brand itself has lost 31% of its brand value, over the last year, dropping to $12 billion. But among worldwide automotive brands, Porsche still held the number five position, just behind its Stuttgart rival, Mercedes-Benz.
The recall comes as Porsche begins preparing for its formal takeover by Volkswagen AG. The two German manufacturers were locked in a bitter David v Goliath battle, last year, set in motion when the smaller Porsche set out to acquire the big VW. Eventually hobbled by the debt run up in the quixotic acquisition attempt, Porsche wound up agreeing to become yet the latest luxury brand in its rival’s collection. VW also owns Audi, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley, as well as several mainstream brands.
The failed takeover cost former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking his job. His successor, Michael Macht, previously headed up the sports car maker’s production operations, and would thus have to take at least some of the blame for the new Panamera recall.
The 2010 Porsche Panamera has received heavily favorable reviews for its handling and performance, but the unusual styling has been quite controversial, largely due to the big rear bulge. The design reflected former CEO Wiedeking’s demand of Porsche designers and engineers that they develop a 4-door model big enough for him to squeeze his own large frame into the back seat.
Nonetheless, sales of the model have been solid since its launch.
It remains to be seen if the recall will hurt Porsche’s image. In recent years, it has repeatedly scored at the top of key quality charts, including the oft-quoted J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey.
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