Chinese Twitter Forces Honda to Recall 350,000 Vehicles
Honda is recalling approximately 350,000 vehicles in China following a deluge of complaints on the microblogging website Sina Weibo, the country’s equivalent of Twitter.
The recall involves the CR-V and Civic models equipped with a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, which have been accumulating unusually high amounts of un-combusted gasoline in the oil pan. Some accumulation is, by design, normal, but should typically evaporate under heat from the engine and then return to the combustion chamber as fuel.
However, in Northern China—where temperatures frequently fall below freezing and where drivers regularly travel short distances—the small engine may not ever get warm enough to help that un-combusted petrol evaporate.
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In some cases, this can cause a strong odor of gasoline to enter the car and may also cause the check-engine light to come on, according to reports on Weibo; however, Honda says this doesn’t affect the engine or the car’s performance and that there have been no any reports of accidents.
The Japanese automaker and its joint venture partner, Dongfeng Motor Group, plan to fix the reported issue by tweaking the CR-V and Civic’s gasoline injection control software.
Had the issue come up years ago, before sites like Twitter and Weibo became so widely used, it could have been resolved through the usual customer service channels, or what is known in the industry as a “quiet recall”: the automaker simply fixes the issue whenever the customers comes to the dealership, usually free of charge.
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Thanks to platforms like Weibo, however, complaints about any given product tend to spiral out of control, a pattern that has emerged both in China and the United States. “Without Weibo, it would have gone on for years,” said James Chao, chief automotive analyst for IHS Markit in the Asia-Pacific region. “That’s the way it was for the industry in the pre-Weibo, pre-Twitter era.”
As a result, the issue is far more commercially damaging for Honda than it could have been, and arguably should have been, given that it does not affect safety and was caused by environmental factors rather than poor manufacturing on Honda’s part.