Honda has announced the recall of nearly 9,000 late-model crossover-utility vehicles due to potentially faulty fuel tanks that pose the risk of a spill or fire.
The action comes as the maker struggles to resolve quality-related issues that resulted in Honda recalling 3.8-million vehicles in 2011, more than any other automaker operating in the U.S. market. (For more on that story, Click Here.)
The maker says it will begin notifying customers next month to bring the covered vehicles in for inspection and, if necessary, free repairs. The recall affects 8,700 Honda Pilot and Acura MDX models sold during the 2012 model-year.
The number of vehicles impacted is relatively small – especially when compared to the 45,800 Odyssey minivans involved in another Honda service campaign this month and the 273,000 Honda and Acura products recalled last December due to potentially defective side airbags. But industry analysts are wondering whether the ongoing series of problems could create an image issue for a brand long known for quality and reliability – just as Honda had hoped to recover from the production shortages caused by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“This is something surprising,” said analyst George Peterson, of AutoPacific, Inc. Following the previous minivan recall, he stressed that, “They need to be worried. The more this gets out there…the more sales they can lose.”
Honda had 15 separate recalls in 2011, so the number of recent service actions is disconcerting should the trend continue at anywhere near this pace. The maker nudged past Toyota last year, the Japanese giant having led the U.S. market in the total number of vehicles recalled during 2009 and 2010 – the majority of them due to Toyota’s problems with so-called “unintended acceleration.”
The good news for Honda is that the number of vehicles involved in this year’s recalls have been low, only a few 100 in several of them. Even with the newest campaign the vehicle total for 2012 is less than 60,000.
But the maker is coming back from a year that would be readily described as “an incredible challenge,” according to John Mendel, Honda’s top American executive.
A sizable number of brand loyalists appear to have held off waiting until inventories reached normal, rather than flocking to competitors like Ford, Chevrolet or Hyundai. But analysts stress that Honda also has to worry about “conquest” customers, the buyers it normally can expect to win over from the competition each year.
“They’re already having a conquest problem,” said Aaron Bragman, of IHS Automotive, and that could get still worse if Honda continues to have high-profile recalls.
Ironically, the maker – like its competition – may actually willing to risk that to avoid the alternative problem, being accused of hiding potential safety defects.
That was an issue that put Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at loggerheads. The maker paid record fines of more than $50 million for such delays in 2010. BMW faced a smaller fine for similar delays earlier this month. (Click Here for that report.)
Industry officials, including Honda’s Mendel, have promised to be even more aggressive in isolating potential problems even if that means facing more recalls.
Tags: Acura MDX, Honda recall, auto news, auto safety, car news, car safety, honda airbags, honda defects, honda news, honda pilot, honda quality, honda safety, honda service, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau, toyota quality, toyota recalls, unintended acceleration