Uber has been continuously leasing fire-prone cars to drivers in Singapore since April 2016 despite knowing these cars were recalled by the manufacturer. In January 2017, nine months after the recall, one Uber manager is reported saying that leaving these cars on the road "feels like low risk".
Uber Singapore bought more than 1,000 units of Honda Vezel SUVs which were rented out to their drivers since April 2016. According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), managers at the ride-hailing company were fully aware that the model had been recalled by Honda back in April 2016 after complaints that an electrical part could overheat and catch fire.
Continuous purchase despite recall
The publication reported that Uber purchased 100 Vezels from Singapore-based dealer Sunrita two days after Honda released a recall order for the model on 4 April 2016. Sunrita informed its client of the recall on 5 May 2016 and that affected parts will be replaced by the end of August 2016. Despite the recall, Uber still purchased in the following months a total of 1,065 additional Vezels from Sunrita and other dealers.
In August, Sunrita emailed Uber that their replacement parts fell short. Uber asked the dealer to fix the cars already via intermittent emails but it still continued to purchase and rent out defective Vezels. Until January 2017, an Uber Honda Vezel caught fire, melting the windscreen.
After the incident, Uber Singapore said in a statement that it hired three in-house experts as a response to safety recalls.
"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", says Uber in a statement.
Uber Singapore bought the cars from small dealers in the gray market since it would save up to 12 per cent of the car's regular cost at partner Honda dealers. Based on lease agreement documents, Uber managers guaranteed drivers these cars were in "perfect running condition".
Uber managers email exchanges
In an exchange of emails, Uber managers in Singapore were debating the situation after one of its cars caught fire.
Michael Brown, Uber's general manager of the Asia-Pacific region, sent an advisory to his colleagues on 13 January to pull out faulty cars from the streets to circumvent any further untoward incident.
Warren Tseng, Uber Singapore's general manager, responded that the withdrawal would cost them US$1.03m in rental fees, parking costs and driver nets.
Chan Park, another Uber Singapore manager, echoed Tseng's concern, stating that leaving faulty cars on the road "feels like low risk" with emphasis that Honda's recall occurred nine months ago.
At the end, the managers came up with a decision to leave the cars on the road and wait for the replacement parts to arrive. In spite of knowing it is impermissible to alter any part of the car not in accordance with Honda's discretion, Uber recommended the drivers to have their cars' faulty part repaired. Uber is also planning to seek the approval of Singapore authorities for the repair effort.