Are luxury marques cutting quality to cope with competition?
Imported premium cars are still popular in China, but their reputation might be on the decline.
After recalls of score of models made by foreign carmakers for various defects, questions have been raised about whether vehicle producers are cutting corners in production so they can also cut sticker prices and snare more customers as competition intensifies.
Since April 23, four foreign carmakers have recalled dozens of models of imported cars, according to notices on the website of Defective Product Administrative Center (DPAC) under the State Administration for Market Regulation.
British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover was the latest to file a recall notice with the DPAC.
Jaguar Land Rover's China unit said on April 26 that the company would recall Range Rover Velar cars manufactured between April 13 and November 17, 2017 due to manufacturing defects in the air conditioning system.
The statement said 4,511 units in the Chinese mainland would be recalled.
Because of the defect, the company said, when the outdoor temperature is below 0 C, internal fogging on the front windshield and other windows may not be eliminated quickly.
That could limit the driver's vision and present potential safety hazards, according to the statement.
Ford Motor Co notified the DPAC of its plans to recall 47 of its imported Lincoln MKZ sedans made between May 31 and June 16, 2017, the agency said in a statement on April 26.
The recall is to repair a defect in the cars' automatic transmission torque converters, which pose a safety risk, it said.
Ford filed a separate recall plan for 17,912 Lincoln MKZ sedans in the mainland due to defects in the steering wheel, the DPAC said on April 23.
Japan's Mitsubishi Motors and Subaru Corp also recalled several models of imported cars because of defects, according to the DPAC.
On Tuesday, the China Automotive News noted that many other foreign carmakers, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lamborghini, have been forced to recall imported cars in China because of quality issues.
"All the premium brands have recalled cars because of defects and quality issues with the parts," the report said, adding that with the steady growth of the domestic market for luxury cars in recent years, producers have been expanding output, which may have weighed on quality control issues.
Another factor may be the increasingly fierce competition among luxury brands and their shrinking profits, according to the newspaper.
To cope with the competition, companies might have decided to cut costs and use lower-quality parts, it added.
"As competition intensifies, more and more luxury brands have cut prices to grab market share," the newspaper said. "Lower prices are good, but this should not come with [inferior] parts or the brands could lose their reputation."