Vehicle recalls in India soared to a five-year high in 2021 with more than seven lakh units recalled, which was more than the total number of recalls during the previous three years.

According to data given out by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), four-wheeler and two-wheeler recalls during 2021 stood at 7,07,318 units. The industry had seen 3,80,615 recalls in 2020, 1,59,992 in 2019 and 1,38,755 in 2018.

The largest number of such voluntary recalls in a year happened in 2015 when slightly over a million units were recalled. The list does not include trucks, buses and three-wheelers.

Royal Enfield tops the table

Eicher Motors, makers of Royal Enfield bikes, led the list, recalling over 2.56 lakh units. Car market leader Maruti Suzuki followed with slightly over 1.81 lakh recalls in 2021.

The recall of over 50 models in 2021 covered a wide spectrum from Suzuki Gixxer 150 and Royal Enfield Classic 350 bikes to Honda City, Mahindra Thar, and Maruti Suzuki Brezza, and even Mercedes CLA and Porsche Boxter. The reasons were varied such as airbag failure, faulty emissions, and engine malfunction.

Though India is the fourth largest automotive market, the country got its long delayed, government-defined recall policy only in April thanks to the steps taken by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

According to the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 2021, manufacturers can face a penalty of up to ₹ 1 crore depending on the number of recalls. Till the end of the last financial year manufacturers made voluntary recalls to replace any defective part, in line with SIAM’s voluntary recall policy. Sometimes testing agencies like the ARAI that identified an issue, forcing the manufacturer to do a recall.

Recalls in India have been controlled by manufacturers themselves in the absence of any laws and therefore never attracted any penalty. Compensation, if any, also was at the discretion of the manufacturer.

Due to the absence of a law, the vehicle owner had little option beyond highlighting the issue on social media in the hope of getting the attention of the company.

Designated officer

In April this year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways appointed Amit Varadan as the designated officer to oversee the process of vehicle recalls. Varadan, an Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officer of 1990 batch, is the first person to take charge of the newly created position.

The designated officer has powers to initiate proceedings against an auto-maker based on a report of findings by an investigation officer, as specified by the Central government.

The officer can also issue a recall notice suo motu , if he has reasonable grounds to believe that a motor vehicle is defective, and that the defect exists in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture.