Maruti Suzuki recalls 77,380 units of Baleno and Dzire

New Delhi: In a span of eight days, India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has recalled 78,615 units of its Baleno and S-Cross models from a total of around 83,000 cars sold by its premium Nexa dealership network.

On Friday, New Delhi-based Maruti Suzuki said it had recalled 58,188 units of Baleno sold in India as well as 17,231 units shipped out of the country.

The recall comes a week after Maruti Suzuki undertook a “service campaign” to inspect a suspected fault and replace a brake part in 20,427 units of the S-Cross. These models were manufactured between 20 April 2015 and 12 February 2016, the company said.

Maruti Suzuki’s move is part of a trend that has seen an increasing number of voluntary recalls by automakers in the country. Analysts say the recalls show the industry is becoming proactive in fixing defects.

The company has now recalled all the Baleno models that it has sold between the vehicle’s launch in October and 17 May. Balenos manufactured between 3 August and 17 May are being recalled to upgrade their airbag controller software, the company said in a statement.

The Baleno is also the first Maruti model exported to Japan, the home market of its parent Suzuki Motor Co., which first set up operations in India in 1983.

In the case of the S-Cross, Maruti Suzuki refrained from calling the exercise a recall—a practice followed by automakers to distance their brands from negative perceptions associated with the word.

In addition, the company on Friday also said that at least 1,961 DZire diesel cars (only auto gear shift or AGS variant) will be attended to for inspection and replacement of a faulty fuel filter.

Sunil Bhatnagar, EPC function manager at Bechtel India Ltd, bought his Baleno on 1 May. “I was quite shocked when I saw this news today,” he said.

Bhatnagar had bought the car based on the brand value of the model’s previous generation, a sedan that Maruti sold until 2005.

Will the recalls be a setback for the Nexa project, which was aimed at attracting buyers moving up to bigger automobiles with premium features after driving cars made by Maruti, which has traditionally been associated with entry-level vehicles for first-time buyers?

Abdul Majeed, partner and auto practice leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that one needs to take “a broader view” of recalls.

“The vehicle building has become a very complex process. Supply chain has become very complicated. According to me, it is impossible to say we will not have recalls. The good thing is that automakers are becoming proactive as far as defects in the vehicles are concerned,” he said.

Such exercises do not necessarily impact a brand as customers are aware and educated about the issue.

Nexa was launched in August with the S-Cross crossover. The company added the Baleno hatchback to the Nexa portfolio in October.

India does not have a recall policy in place but industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has adopted a so-called voluntary recall system, which, however, prescribes no penalties.

On 21 April, Union minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprises G.M. Siddeshwara informed the Lok Sabha that the government is not considering a mandatory recall policy for automakers in the event of defects.

The ministry of road transport and highways, in the draft Road Transport and Safety Bill, 2015, proposed a mandatory recall policy for vehicles, keeping the safety of users in mind.

The draft bill proposed that manufacturers be made liable to pay compensation for damage due to crashes caused by manufacturing defects in vehicles. It had also proposed penalties on vehicle makers for not bringing manufacturing defects to notice.

Vehicle recalls have increased in the past few months. On 20 May, Ford India Pvt. Ltd recalled 48,700 units of its EcoSport compact utility vehicle.

Last year, Maruti Suzuki recalled Alto 800 and Alto K10 cars manufactured between 8 December 2014 and 18 February 2015 to rectify defective latches on right-side doors.

In February, Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL) recalled 57,676 units of the City and Civic sedans and the hatchback Jazz to replace driver-side airbag inflators. In December, the firm had issued a recall of City sedans manufactured between December 2013 and July 2015 and Mobilio multi-purpose vehicles made between June 2014 and July 2015 to replace the fuel return pipe.

In October, HCIL recalled 3,879 units of the continuously variable transmission variant of its City sedan. Prior to that, in September it recalled 223,000 units of the CR-V sport utility vehicle, and City and Civic sedans to replace airbag inflators.