Learning from mistakes

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Learning from mistakes

As its Japanese rival Toyota Motor is making ripples around the world over safety concerns, Hyundai Motor announced yesterday that it would stop sales of 2011 Sonata sedans due to problems with locks on the doors.

The decision comes amid expectations that Hyundai would benefit most from Toyota woes following its exceptional increase in sales in the United States despite the economic slump.

So far, no injuries or accidents have been reported and the situation is unlikely to lead to a serious recall crisis.

The recall cases with the two automakers are different. Since the introduction of its revamped model, Hyundai has sold about 1,300 new Sonata sedans in the U.S. and 46,000 in the domestic market. These cars are subject to recall for inspection and repair.

Toyota has recalled 10 million vehicles sold around the world, a number topping its annual sales, due to a number of problems across a range of models.

Hyundai discovered the exact cause of the problem related to the front door of the new model, which may open while the car is in motion due to a faulty latch, and began to address it. Hyundai assures that the models currently under manufacturing won’t have the problem. The only models subject to recall are cars rolled out before Feb. 16 from the American factory lines and before Dec. 6 last year from Korean lines. Still, the problem raises concerns about Hyundai’s safety awareness and management control. It mirrors the events leading up to Toyota’s current mass recall crisis. Complaints over door latches had been piling in since the new Sonata sedans hit the local market in September. Some consumers demanded a recall, fearing the doors would fly open while they drove.

But Hyundai remained silent and dismissive. It only acted on the stop-sales order when the potential problem made news in the U.S.

If it had paid attention to local customers and taken quick, appropriate action, it could have prevented the situation from building up to its current level.

We have repeatedly said domestic carmakers should learn from the Toyota crisis. Quality control should be given top priority, but swift action upon complaint is equally important in order not to follow the unfortunate steps of Japan’s top automaker.

Hyundai must keep in mind that honesty and transparency are the best policies in sales. It cannot be the next boy who cries wolf, not after Toyota’s crisis. If there is fault, it must publicly share it with consumers and authorities. If Hyundai rides the current wave well, it may come out stronger and more skillful.

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