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Aston Martin recalls 17,590 cars due to counterfeit material

An Aston Martin logo is seen on a car inside the company's showroom in Doha October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad
An Aston Martin logo is seen on a car inside the company's showroom in Doha October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Aston Martin expanded a recall on Wednesday to cover most of its sports cars built since late 2007 after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in a part supplied to the British luxury sports carmaker.

Owned by Kuwaiti and private equity investors, Aston Martin said it would now recall 17,590 cars, including all of its left-hand drive models built since November 2007 and all right-hand drive models built since May 2012.

That affects about 75 percent of all vehicles built in that period, a spokeswoman said. Its Vanquish model is not affected.

Aston Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co Limited, a Chinese subcontractor that moulds the affected accelerator pedal arms, was using counterfeit DuPont plastic material, according to documents filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The material was supplied by Synthetic Plastic Raw Material Co Ltd of Dongguan, according to the documents.

The cars are being recalled from model years 2008 through 2014 because the accelerator pedal arm may break, increasing the risk of a crash, according to the NHTSA documents. The engine would return to idle and the driver would be unable to maintain or increase speed, according to the documents.

Aston Martin spokeswoman Sarah Calam said there had been no reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue and 22 failed parts had been reported. She said the financial impact to the automaker was small, but did not quantify the total.

The cost of the recall is of great interest because Aston Martin has struggled to fund the development of a range of new vehicles while rivals like Bentley, owned by Volkswagen , and Rolls Royce, owned by BMW , have the ability to draw on the resources of their parent firms.

Aston Martin's owners include Italian private equity fund Investindustrial, Kuwait-based Adeem Investment and Prime Wagon.

Germany's Daimler AG also has stake of less than 5 percent in the British automaker.

Of the Aston Martin cars affected in the recall, 7,271 are in Europe and 5,001 in the United States, Calam said. The company sells cars in 41 countries.

The latest recall replaces one announced last May and expanded in October.

Because of the issue, Aston Martin is now being supplied directly by a DuPont distributor.

Both Aston Martin and chemical company Dupont sent people to China to directly supervise the production of all pedal arms, including verifying each bag of DuPont plastic material, Calam said.

PIRACY PROBLEM

The automaker plans to shift production of the pedal arms from China to the United Kingdom "as soon as possible" in 2014, she said.

Last May, Aston Martin initially recalled 2,832 cars globally to replace the accelerator pedal arm after finding the affected part included material that did not meet specifications, Calam said.

After another arm broke that was not part of that group, the company expanded the recall to 16,825 cars and required the use of material made by DuPont.

When one of the replacement parts broke in December during installation by a U.S. dealer in Connecticut, however, Aston Martin froze the recall and found the counterfeit plastic material was being used in place of the DuPont material, she said.

The recall includes all the cars previously repaired, Calam said. Under the recall, Aston Martin will replace the accelerator pedal assemblies.

The manufacturer of the throttle pedal assembly that included the counterfeit material is Precision Varionic International Limited, according to the NHTSA documents.

The company's quality director, John Penman, did not immediately return calls and messages seeking comment.

It is not the first time DuPont has dealt with piracy in relation to China.

U.S. prosecutors indicted a California businessman in 2011 with stealing DuPont trade secrets in order to sell them to a Chinese company. That trial is ongoing.

(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Sophie Hares)

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