Uber allegedgly knew about a recall for cars leased out to drivers in Singapore but didn’t deal with the problem until one of the cars caught fire, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed internal Uber emails that showed that Uber knew that Honda had recalled the Vezel SUV in April 2016 for a defective electrical component. Despite the recall, the company went ahead and bought 1,000 of the SUVs and rented them out.
Then, a driver’s car–a Vezel—burst into flames in January, melting part of interior of the car and cracking the windshield, according to the WSJ. The driver escape uninjured.
Three days later, Uber executives in San Francisco were looped into the situation in Singapore. A plan went into action to that involved deactivating the faulty part. The cars would stay on the road while replacement parts came in.
This all went down while then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was still at the helm and dealing with a growing list of problems at the company.
Emails show that the Uber’s insurance provider in Singapore said it wouldn’t cover the damage from the January fire because of the known recall. SF executives were filled in two days later.
There was talk of taking the cars off the road, but Singapore’s general manager said that would cost 1.4 million Singapore dollars a week. “Asking drivers to give up their keys with no suggested fix will send panic alarm bells to the mass market,” an email reportedly read.
“Asking drivers to give up their keys with no suggested fix will send panic alarm bells to the mass market.”
So instead Uber had drivers get the affected cars repaired by disabling the faulty part and to be ready to replace the parts once those came in.
At the end of February, the WSJ reported about an email invitation to the Singapore staff to celebrate dealing with the “Vezel snafu.” It joked about taking the SUVs as transportation.
Uber said the company has since improved its recall processes and now has a recall protocol, which didn’t exist before. Since the beginning of the year Uber says it has “proactively” responded to six recalls.
An Uber spokesperson said, “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.
“But we acknowledge we could have done more—and we have done so.”
We also reached out to Lion City Rentals, the Uber-owned car rental service in Singapore.