Aston Martin recall highlights risk of China parts supply

Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:03am EST
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By James Pomfret, Norihiko Shirouzu and Laurence Frost

SHENZHEN, China/PARIS (Reuters) - Aston Martin's sweeping recall of its high-end sports cars last week raises larger questions about the risk to global automakers of sourcing key parts thousands of miles away in China without implementing adequate quality control measures.

Executives from several major foreign automakers said they either shun Chinese-owned suppliers or help them establish sound production processes and train workers to avoid quality problems.

And some traders in one of China's largest plastics supply hubs told a Reuters reporter during a recent visit that counterfeit plastic material of the kind found in an accelerator pedal supplied to Aston Martin was widespread as manufacturers face increasing cost pressures.

The China Association of Automotive Manufacturers, which represents many of the country's vehicle and parts makers, declined to comment.

The British maker of the exotic sports cars featured in a string of James Bond spy movies was forced last week to recall most of the vehicles it has built since 2007. It discovered Chinese subcontractors were using counterfeit plastic material in parts supplied to Aston Martin.

An spokeswoman for Aston Martin, controlled by Kuwaiti and private equity investors, said on February 7 that the Chinese sub-suppliers of accelerator pedal arms are being replaced "as soon as possible" by a U.K.-based supplier.

The source of Aston Martin's recall "is precisely why we don't procure much in China", especially from Chinese-owned component makers, a China-based senior Toyota Motor Co (7203.T: Quote) executive told Reuters. He declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

Toyota, which has extensive manufacturing activities in China, buys most critical components from China-based units of Japanese and other global parts producers. In some cases it brings in materials directly from Japan, the Toyota official said.   Continued...

A worker cleans next to an Aston Martin logo on a car inside the company's showroom in Doha, October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad