Rethinking the supply chain

Aston Martin recently gave its customers the strongest assurance possible that safety is its top priority. By voluntarily recalling 17,590 cars, the company demonstrated that customer safety is a top priority and highlighted that clear and transparent communication is key to resolving difficult recall situations. It also created an opportunity for the carmaker to strengthen the brand and build a better relationship with both customers and prospects.


Aston Martin issued the recall as it came to light that a Chinese sub-supplier allegedly used counterfeit plastic material in part of the accelerator pedal. No accidents have been reported as a result of the fault, but the importance of brand value was enough for Aston Martin to warn customers of the potential issue and provide replacement pedals to all those affected. By offering to fit the part at a local dealership, Aston Martin has created another touch point with their customers, giving them the chance to talk to the customers face-to-face and deepen the relationship. This way, a face is put to the brand, humanising it and making it easier to connect with for the customer.


This proactive demonstration of transparency and open communication highlights the benefits of a voluntary recall, rather than an enforced one. In the past, companies have talked at length about customer safety, but have come up short when an enforced recall is imposed. However, in an age where customer loyalty is continually decreasing, voluntary recalls are simply not associated with danger, risk or embarrassment in the way that enforced recalls are. They are now closer associated with customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Companies can actually help guide the customer through the recall lifecycle and provide a positive touchpoint that minimises the disruption caused to the consumer.


Aston Martin’s situation is not uncommon. China is now the leading car manufacturer in the world, and has seen a huge number of recalls in the last year. In December 2013 alone, more than 2 million cars have had to be recalled in China for defects and quality problems. In such a large market these recalls will happen, but the fact that an increasing number are now voluntary is indicative of the changing nature of the automotive industry.


While a voluntary recall can be positive experience, more effort needs to be made to reduce the number of recalls in the first place. Globalisation has allowed supply chains to become longer, with a greater geographical spread, which means there is more scope for complication. A longer supply chain is more difficult to manage and communication can often break down. Consequently, quality assurance can be neglected, allowing a batch of less-than-perfect products to slip through the net.


Furthermore, the counterfeit manufacturing sector is growing. While China is the leading car manufacturer, it is also the leading producer of counterfeit goods. Expansion of the supply chain into overseas markets has increased the number of counterfeits available. This being the case, supply chain management is of the highest importance in order to avoid further recalls. Perhaps the phrase “quality over quantity” needs to be applied more stringently to supply chain logistics.



ExpertSOLUTIONS, a strategic business unit of Stericycle, is a global leader in product recalls, retrievals, returns, audits and sustainability services. ExpertSOLUTIONS offers a turnkey suite of solutions for a wide range of industries that are designed to aid companies in protecting and enhancing their brands.