Companies & Industries

Bad Gas Pedals Force Aston Martin to Recall 17,590 Fancy Cars


(Corrects the owner of Maserati and and Ferrari in the the sixth and seventh paragraphs.)

Aston Martin, the rarefied British auto maker, doesn’t sell all that many of its ultra-luxury cars with sticker prices starting at $120,000. Now the company is recalling most of them—roughly 75% of its output since 2007—as a result of gas pedals that appear prone to breaking off.

Owned by a cadre of private investment groups, the storied brand associated with James Bond blamed the potential malfunction on a Chinese supplier using “counterfeit plastic material.” Here’s how the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes the risk:

“If the accelerator pedal arm breaks, the engine will return to idle and the driver will be unable to maintain or increase engine speed, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Aston Martin said there have been no reports or accidents or injuries because of the faulty gas pedals. Still, a driver who pays six-figures for a 12-cylinder sports car wants to be able to, you know, accelerate. The recall comprises 17,590 vehicles, including all left-hand drive models driven on American roads built since 2007 and all right-hand drive models found in the U.K. and New Zealand produced since May 2012. There are currently about 5,000 Aston Martins from that period registered in the U.S.

The problems appear to have started shortly after Ford Motor sold the brand for $480 million in the spring of 2007. Daimler, the maker of Mercedes, also has a small stake in Aston Martin.

There’s never a good time to recall three-quarters of the cars made in the last seven years, but this is a particularly bad time for an ultra-luxury carmaker to be pulling over. Vehicles sales at all price points are speeding up, and so is competition from Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Maserati, which is owned by Fiat.

Even though ultra-luxury auto makers promote their precise engineering and limited production, they aren’t immune to manufacturing glitches and faulty parts. Ferrari, also owned by Fiat, recalled all of its 458 Italia models made in 2011 and 2012 when it discovered faulty crankshafts. Bentley and Lamborghini recalled about 1,100 vehicles when they found corrosion in some screws that held on brake rotors.

Aston Martin may still have plenty of momentum, broken accelerators aside. Dan Neil, the Pulitzer Prize-winning car critic at the Wall Street Journal, wrote that his sole gripe with recent models is their entertainment and navigation display. Just this week Road & Track called the new Vantage—which is affected by the recall— “one of the best sports cars in the world.”

Kyle-stock-190
Stock is an associate editor for Businessweek.com. Twitter: @kylestock

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