Australian Financial Review
April 26, 2012
Faulty brakes and engines that might burst into flames are not what you expect when buying a Rolls-Royce. Perhaps that’s why the luxury carmaker has quietly spent the past two years or so trying to fix these types of problems by discreetly contacting owners individually.
Discretion went out the window Wednesday, however, when it emerged that Product Safety Recalls Australia had ordered Rolls-Royce to publish details of recent recalls of its luxury cars in Australia.
The recalls affect 74 Phantom sedans, which sell for between $1 million and $1.35 million each, and 36 Ghost sedans, which retail for a relatively paltry $645,000. That, in effect, covers every Rolls-Royce sold in Australia over the past 10 years.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Asia Pacific communications manager Hal Serudin said the public notification happened under new rules in Australia and cut across a global campaign the company had been running since January 2010 for the Phantom. In that time, Rolls-Royce had managed to fix almost every Phantom in Australia, he said.
The public notifications also picked up a recall campaign run since October for the Ghost, as well as a fresh recall for that model affecting only a few cars produced in 2011. Serudin said almost all of the cars in Australia covered by the three recalls had been fixed. “The vast majority of cars have already been sorted out,” he said.
The problem for Phantom owners has been with the brakes. In a letter to these customers, Rolls-Royce said there was a problem with an oil leak in the power braking system that could “cause a vacuum loss and consequent reduction of power braking assistance.”
While stressing that “mechanical braking” would still be available and there had been no reported incidents from this problem, the company urged customers to get it fixed. “Furthermore, as this issue relates to older vehicles with a high mileage, we believe it is highly unlikely that Rolls-Royce customers will be affected,” the company said.
Both problems with the Ghost relate to an electric auxiliary water pump, which helps the engine’s cooling system. The consumer regulator warned there was a risk the cooling pump could crack, allowing coolant to leak onto the pump’s electronic components, “possibly causing an engine compartment fire or a vehicle fire.”
In a letter to customers, Roll-Royce General Manager of After Sales Carl Whipp agreed that “in extreme cases,” the fault “could lead to overheating, posing a potential fire risk.” He also noted there had been no such cases.
Serudin said Rolls-Royce had taken a different approach than other carmakers in notifying the public about its safety issues. “It is unlike other brands, where you do a massive advertising campaign, because it doesn’t work with our consumers,” he said.
“You are looking at people who are extremely busy and not always reading that type of media. If you send out a press release, [it could] unnecessarily alarm a customer. We have to ensure we are taking care of our customers. They expect to have personal treatment.”
Serudin said the company had only one dealer in Australia, and that dealer knew the customers individually, so it made sense to contact them through that channel. He complained that coverage of the issue had been sensationalized, saying the most likely outcome from the fuel-pump leak was that a warning light would come on, while the brake problem would not result in brake failure, simply the loss of power braking.
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