Uber is caught in yet another controversy and has now been accused of renting over 1,000 unsafe cars and leasing them to drivers in Singapore. However, now the ride-hailing company stated that it is looking into the matter and has taken the initiative to repair the cars.
What did Uber Singapore do wrong?
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal claimed that Uber Singapore bought over 1,000 Honda Vezel SUVs and rented all of them even though it was aware that the vehicle was recalled in April 2016. Honda recalled the Vezel due to an electrical issue that could overheat them and cause them to catch fire, the WSJ said, citing internal Uber emails and documents it reviewed and interviews with “people familiar with Uber’s operations in the region.”
The WSJ further claimed that Uber Singapore calculated that it would be able to buy the cars for 12% less from small dealers than from authorized dealers. Apparently, these small dealers sell cars at a discount and are present in the gray market where it is quite a difficult task for authorities to enforce safety, service and legal contracts, notes Channel NewsAsia.
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Even more glaring is the fact that Uber assured drivers about the condition of the car, according to a rental agreement from 2016 reviewed by the WSJ. According to an internal document, the company already had bought some new Vezels when Honda issued a recall for the fuel-powered models on Apr 4, 2016, advising owners to get them serviced as soon as possible. Two days later, the company bought 100 Vezels from Singapore-based dealer Sunrita.
According to the WSJ, lawyers at Uber assessed the potential legal liabilities related to the possible violation of the driver contracts.
“There is clearly a large safety/responsible actor/brand integrity/PR issue” for Uber, an internal report read, according to the Journal.
Uber says it took prompt action
A Honda Vezel caught fire in January. When asked about it, Uber told NewsAsia that as soon as it learned about the incident, it took prompt action to fix the issue with help from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority and technical experts. The company also stated that it launched “robust protocols” and hired three in-house experts whose job is to ensure that it is fully responsible when dealing with safety recalls.
“We acknowledge we could have done more—and we have done so,” a spokesman for the company told The Telegraph.
The spokesperson said they have responded to six vehicle recalls since the beginning of the year and will continue to do so to protect everyone who uses Uber.
Uber, which pulled out of markets like China and Russia, viewed Singapore as a launchpad to expand its market in Southeast Asia. Grab, which holds 95% of the market in third-party taxi hailing, stated that its drivers are not using the recalled Vezel model.
Dane Anderson of Forrester stated that the incident could get some attention and might discourage people from using Uber, “but I don’t see it as having a major impact.”