A damning Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report has emerged suggesting that Uber Singapore bought and leased 1000 Honda Vezels prone to overheating and catching fire due to a faulty electrical component to its drivers.
The organisation chose to deliberately buy the cars from an unauthorised dealer two days after the model had been recalled by Honda on 4 April 2016, in what appears to be a reckless effort to cut costs.
Perhaps more disturbingly, it has been reported that the faulty cars were still on the road after one leased Vezel did catch fire in January 2017.
WSJ claims that it had access to documents showing that Uber knew that the cars came with a fire risk and that the organisation chose to purchase the vehicles two days after deciding that it would cost 12 per cent less to buy the cars from an unauthorised dealer.
Two days after Honda issued a product recall for the Vezel, Uber bought 100 Honda Vezels from Singapore-based dealer Sunrita on 6 April 2016. Even after Sunrita sent notices of product recall to Uber on 5 May 2016 and said that it would take until the end of August to replace faulty parts, Uber continued to buy about 1,065 Honda Vezels from Sunrita and other dealers.
Sunrita was later unable to replace defective parts on all the models due to a shortage of replacement parts. In spite of this, Uber continued to lease 1000 faulty, unrepaired Vezels to drivers through its rental company, Lion City Rentals.
In January 2017, a defective Vezel actually caught on fire, boring a football-sized hole in the windshield and melting the dashboard. Uber had leased the car to Mr Koh Seng Tian who, thankfully, was not ferrying passengers at the time of the incident and escaped the car without injury himself.
WSJ disturbingly reports that in spite of the scary fire in Mr Koh’s leased vehicle, all of Uber’s defective Vezels were still being leased to drivers as of January 2017.
Responding to Uber’s Asia-Pacific general manager Michael Brown who urged the Singapore branch to take all Vezels off the roads following the fire accident, Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng allegedly replied, “Asking drivers to give up their keys with no suggested fix will send panic alarm bells to the mass market”.
He reportedly added that the replacement will cost up to S$1.4 million and chose to keep the faulty cars on the road. The branch seems to have decided that it would wait for replacement parts while drivers continued to risk their lives and the lives of their passengers by driving the Vezels.
It also seems to have asked drivers to bring the defective Vezels to car repait shops so that the faulty parts could be disabled. Although this move might reduce the car’s fire risk, it is not officially authorised by Honda.
Since the story broke, Uber Singapore has claimed that it “proactively responded” to six vehicle recalls, and also “took swift action to fix the problem” following Mr Koh’s Vezel fire accident. A spokesman said that all affected Vezels have since been fixed:
“As soon as we learned of a Honda Vezel from the Lion City Rental fleet catching fire, we took swift action to fix the problem, in close coordination with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. But we acknowledge we could have done more—and we have done so. We’ve introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in-house at LCR whose sole job is to ensure we are fully responsive to safety recalls. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve proactively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber.
We can (also) confirm that all affected Vezels have been fixed.”
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