China state media slams Aston Martin over handling of sports car recall

Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:05am EST
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By Kazunori Takada

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Aston Martin has become the latest global company to feel the ire of China's state media, facing accusations that the luxury carmaker invoked a stereotype of low-quality 'Made in China' manufacturing in a sweeping recall to mask its own shortcomings.

The backlash follows a February 5 decision by the British firm to recall over 17,000 sports cars, most of the vehicles it has produced since late 2007. Aston Martin, controlled by Kuwaiti and private equity investors, said it had discovered a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit material in its accelerator pedal arms.

Critical coverage of international companies over pricing, safety and business practices in China has become more commonplace, sometimes affecting sales there.

Big names like Apple Inc AAPL.O, Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N, Yum Brands Inc YUM.N and Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE have all attracted criticism. In the case of Yum Brands, operator of KFC and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants, negative coverage over a food safety scandal deterred customers, hitting sales hard.

Like other makers of high-end vehicles, the maker of exotic sports cars with price tags running into hundreds of thousands of dollars has pinpointed wealthy customers in China, the world's biggest auto market, as a potential source of future growth. According to consultancy Automotive Foresight (Shanghai) Co, Aston Martin sold 272 cars in China in 2013, nearly triple the 102 it sold in 2012.

The official Xinhua news agency on Friday joined other local media in criticizing Aston Martin, whose cars have been featured in James Bond spy movies, saying it failed to recognize mismanagement of its own supply chain.

"Aston Martin's latest recall again passed the buck for poor quality of products, but this time 'Made in China' is just the scapegoat of the glorious carmaker," Xinhua said in a report headlined, "Aston Martin plays 'Made in China' blame game".

"Higher levels of technology and quality are the ultimate solution for the unjust stereotype of 'Made in China' as cheap and copycat," Xinhua said.   Continued...