A coding error has led Subaru to dispose off 293 of its Ascent 2019 SUVs. A report from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that the error caused the robots, which were building the cars, to miss two very critical welds in the car’s fabrication. The welds were located on the car’s B-pillars which hold the hinges to the second-row doors. The missing welds reduced the overall strength of the car’s body and resulted in passengers suffering an injury in a crash. There was no way to fix the error after the production, so all the vehicles were required to be destroyed rather than getting them refurbished. Subaru said that only nine of the affected cars were actually in the hands of consumers and they will receive a replacement vehicle.
The document submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated, “An SIA factory representative will inspect all potentially affected vehicles, and if the vehicle is missing any spot welds, the vehicle will be replaced with a new one. There is no physical remedy available; therefore, any vehicles found with missing welds will be destroyed.” The defected cars were produced between 13 July and 21 July. However, not all the vehicles produced in this period were affected by the flaw. The company launched an investigation in production procedure after an audit discovered a single example of the mistake in July.
As per Stout’s 2018 report of Warranty and Recall, almost 8 million vehicles were recalled in 2017 because of a software or integrated circuit issue. This year, other car manufacturers like Ford and Tesla have also experienced expensive recalls due to the errors. As we are heading into the robot revolution, the auto manufacturers need to take a warning from Subaru and ensure that development practices are strict without any exceptions on release quality. It is not common to hear of coding mistakes that cause issues during the production. In the 1980’s when GM began to automate its car assembly lines to stand a chance against its Japanese competitors, the new robots in the paint shop started painting each other instead of the cars in front of them.
Not only that, the robots responsible for fitting windscreens loved to smash them up instead. In another case, similar to Subaru, the spot welding robots began welding the doors shut rather than their hinges. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has also admitted that having robots is not always the best solution to get things done. He acknowledged in an interview that sometimes the robots show down the production instead of making it quicker.