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Pedal problem highlights need for supply chain vigilance

Manufacturers are being encouraged to work more closely with their Chinese suppliers in light of Aston Martin’s recall of over 17,000 vehicles. 

Vehicles being recalled include left hand drive cars built between 11 November 2007 and 31 December 2013, and right hand drive cars built between May 2012 and 31 December 2013. New Vanquish Coupe, new Vanquish Volante, and Cygnet are not part of this recall.

Aston Martin spokeswoman Sarah Calam said the recall relates to a small number of throttle pedal fractures, and that the parts were made by a tier-three Chinese subcontractor that used an out of specification material in the moulding process.

The Gaydon-headquartered company added that there have been no reports of accidents or injuries involving the throttle pedal, and that work to rectify the fault would be carried out in up to an hour with no charge to the customer.

Richard Gane, supply chain director at international consultant Vendigital, believes the recall highlights wider issues surrounding the sourcing of parts from China.

He said: ‘A number of Western manufacturers have been adversely affected by sub-standard components sourced from China in recent years.

‘Such events highlight the need for supply chain visibility and for manufacturers to work closely with Chinese suppliers on the ground to ensure quality standards are met.

‘The recall might also be symptomatic of an underlying problem with Western buyer behaviour - there is too much focus on cutting cost and reducing margins and this is beginning to back fire.

‘There may also be a lack of cultural understanding during sales negotiations. For example, during such discussions, the Western buyer will assume that quality is fixed while costs are being discussed, whereas his Chinese counterpart will assume that if the price needs to be changed, then the quality does too.’

Calam stressed that Aston Martin works ‘extremely closely’ with its tier one supply chain. 




Readers' comments (3)

  • As was first said in 1971, when the Lockheed debacle saw off Rolls Royce,

    "placing impossible terms and conditions on a supplier is inviting him to let you down, and he most certainly will!"

    For heavens sake, keep purchasing agents/departments/book-keepers/well away from any area where precision, tolerances, and 'resultant' errors are likely. They may wish to reduce the price of everything, but at what 'cost' ? Value during whole life is the clincher, not a few pence saved!

    Will they ever learn? Not until we put them (and their accounting partners) back into the counting house where our Victorian Engineering ancestors kept them!

    I recall an episode in the USA synthetic fibre industry where purchasing insisted that they alone had access to suppliers, not the Engineers. We were simply to provide the drawings. Purchasing sent ex-ICI First Angle drawings to US suppliers, who created 32 beautifully made parts at about $1500 each...unfortunately they were working on 'Third Angle' and all that was made were mirror images of handed parts!
    A complete waste!

    Think it through, or don't start at all!

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  • This failure is not a simple materials substitution case, or bad quality by supplier. To start with: Why was this critical or fundamental component designed to be made of plastics? Please tell me a credible reason for making it plastic (no, weight reduction is not credible, as the assembly is not going to significantly affect vehicle weight at all). It is a case of plain, simple bad design practice. After accepting that, we can proceed to analyze all of the rest of failures in the chain, like the relentless pursuit of the absolutely lowest cost, the lack of supervision on the supply chain, and the most absurd one: that anybody in the whole world could just lower his price without giving away quality... the article has a strong bias against the Chinese, as it says it a cultural matter. I don't agree at all. I've been to China and they showed me a large display of internal combustion model engines for model airplanes, it had nine different prices for the nine examples of the same size, from 20 to over 90 US Dollars... and all the samples in the display looked almost identical, except for some minor color accents. When I asked the Chinese vendors to please explain why the price varied so much, they succintly stated the differences: the three cheaper ones had simple bushed bearings, the rest had ball bearings. The most expensive had CERAMIC ball bearings and was hand tested one by one at the factory, thus raising the price. For me, this case is an example of extremely inept purchasing personnel, uncappable of properly communicating with the Chinese. And I repeat: Nobody will lower the price just for you begging.
    you get what you pay.

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  • "there have been no reports of accidents or injuries involving the throttle pedal,"

    If this is the case, what in heavens name are they doing recalling 17,000!
    just replace any that come to light!

    Value Engineering?
    I recall a story told by the HR director (so it must be true?) at one of the universities where I taught. In his youth he had been with a minor food manufacturer, one where margins were tight. One of the operatives, who was ill, had vomited into one of the mixing vats. "What should I do? asked his replacement, of the foreman.
    "Keep stirring, lad!"

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