Uber is in the spotlight for shady operations once again after a report revealed that the U.S. ride-hailing giant knowingly leased cars that were subject to a recall to drivers in Singapore.
A Wall Street Journal report exposed the events which took place in 2016 and centered around the Honda Vezel, one of a number of vehicles that Uber purchased and then made available for drivers to lease in Singapore, where the cost of a car is among the highest on the planet. Honda issued on a recall on the model due to faulty part, but Uber continued to buy affected models and lease them to drivers without first fixing the issue. In one case, an Uber car caught fire but fortunately neither the driver nor any passengers were in it at the time, the Journal reported.
Central to the problem, Uber opted to buy its cars from auto importers rather than licensed dealers once it had exhausted local used-car dealer supplies, a move that the Journal said was made to save on spending. Uber's importers, which operate in a legal grey area, didn't fix the affected Vezel vehicles due to an apparent shortage of parts and Honda wasn't obligated to do so, but Uber kept the vehicles on the road while it waited in order to avoid a negative reaction.
The Journal said one senior Uber Singapore executive described a possible recall, which would have left affected drivers without their vehicle since there was no immediate fix, as an event that would "send panic alarm bells to the mass market."
Eventually, Uber did request drivers of affected Vezels to take their vehicle to a repair shop to get the faulty part deactivated, a move that it believed would reduce the potential for danger but one that was not approved by Honda itself. The Journal said Uber informed drivers of the need for "immediate precautionary servicing," but a website containing information did not mention the dangers of overheating and fire which triggered the recall from Honda.
Visit the Wall Street Journal for the full -- and very ugly -- story.
Uber provided the following statement:
As soon as we learned of a Honda Vezel from the Lion City Rental fleet catching fire, we took swift action to fix the problem, in close coordination with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. But we acknowledge we could have done more—and we have done so. We’ve introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in-house at LCR whose sole job is to ensure we are fully responsive to safety recalls. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve proactively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber.