Yamaha has recalled more than 161,000 golf carts and Personal Transportation vehicles after 285 reports of brake failures. The final number could be as much as 200,000, but is this the biggest Yamaha golf cart recall in history?
Yes, is the simple answer. This is far and away the biggest single safety recall of all time in the golf cart industry.
What Caused the Biggest Recall in History?
The Japanese manufacturer has found a potential fault with the brake cable that can cause a total failure. The recall affects both gas-powered and electric carts that went on sale from November 2014 to December 2017. It’s a PR disaster for the firm that makes motorbikes, snowmobiles, ATVs marine motors and more.
The specific Yamaha golf carts affected by the recall are:
- The Drive Models (Gas and Electric) 2015-2016
- The Drive2 Models (Gas and Electric (2017-2018)
If you own one of these carts, you should contact your local dealer with your serial number and book in for a repair. Brake failure, even on a golf cart, is no joke. The electric Drive2 has a top speed of 19mph and weighs 1043lb. If it careens out of control at that speed, then the results could be catastrophic.
Bad News for Yamaha
Yamaha is one of the world’s leading golf cart manufacturers. It has produced more than three million vehicles since moving to a state-of-the-art facility in Newman, Georgia, in 2011. Personal watercraft and ATVs contributed to that number, but there’s no doubt that Yamaha, along with Club Car and EZ-GO, is one of the kings of the golf cart sector.
This recall, though, could have serious ramifications for the company. It isn’t quite as dramatic as the airbag recall that hit car manufacturers recently, but it’s not good for the firm.
Yamaha has done the right thing, and we have to point out that nobody has been injured in those 285 incidents that have been reported so far. The Japanese marque has advised customers to stop using their cart until they can schedule a free repair with their local dealer and it has handled the recall by the book.
This Recall ‘Wins’ by a Mile
The sheer magnitude of this recall, though, is incredible. The second-place safety recall helps to put it in perspective. EZ-GO’s biggest single recall affected 30,000 vehicles.
In 2014, EZ-GO issued a recall for its golf carts, off-roading utility vehicles and shuttles. The Cushman, Bad Boy Buggies and LT Safari brands were also dragged into the mire.
A problem with the steering nuts working loose meant that drivers could lose control of their vehicles. The only injury reported was a driver hitting a curb and chipping a tooth, but again the consequences could have been much worse.
When We Said EZ-Go Was on Fire…
In 2015, EZ-GO was forced to recall 8,200 gas-powered machines in one hit after it found a problem with the fuel tank that could cause the carts and other vehicles to catch fire. But these are Busch League problems compared to Yamaha’s new recall.
EZ-GO issued three major recalls in 2014 alone in the Hunting and Utility Vehicles sector, which was a terrible year for the Georgia-based manufacturer, owned by parent company Textron. But all three of those recalls combined simply can’t make a dent on Yamaha’s latest episode.
Other Manufacturers Faced Smaller Recalls
The golf cart recall Hall of Shame isn’t just reserved for Yamaha and EZ-GO. The other manufacturers have had to hang their heads on more than one occasion.
In 2015, Club Car Precedent Gas Golf and Club Carts had to recall 10,000 vehicles after it, too, discovered a fire hazard in its fueling system. Most recalls don’t get this far and most of the incidents in the past few years cover just a few thousand vehicles at a time.
In total, more than 1 million golf carts and Personal Transportation Vehicles have been recalled since 2005, with more than 80 separate recall notices. This shows the magnitude of the problem as a whole. It is not just one manufacturer or one type of incident.
Yamaha’s single design flaw in the braking system could make up more than 20% of all recalls for the past 13 years in the golf cart industry. Yamaha could claim it’s a victim of its own success and the only reason that it’s recalling so many vehicles is that it sold a lot more than its rivals. But even that strawman argument wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny. EZ-GO is a solid rival in terms of manufacturing numbers and it simply hasn’t come close to this number of recalls.
The Brake Cable Is a Cheap Fix
The problem is a brake cable, which is an easy fix. This is a small crumb of comfort for the Yamaha executives that are currently sweating under the spotlights. Yamaha’s other recent recall, which affected just 2000 vehicles, was a more fundamental wheel hub issue that could lead to wheels shearing. That would have been a more expensive fix and could have caused the company serious issues if it had occurred on a similar scale.
As it is, Yamaha will be counting the cost of this painful episode for years to come. The cost of the repairs themselves could pale into insignificance compared to the damage to Yamaha’s reputation.
This is a company that prides itself on absolute precision. A fundamental failure like this could lead potential buyers, both personal and commercial, to steer clear of a Yamaha golf cart when they come to buy their next vehicle. It could even affect its sales in the motorcycle and ATV sectors.
Now the PR Campaign Begins
The Japanese manufacturer is one of the biggest in the world. But there are other options for consumers. None of the competitors has blotted their copybook like this, ever. And it’s going to take time and positive spin to get past this.
Right now, Yamaha’s golf carts have a record that the company would rather forget. It’s hard to see how any company in the sector is going to beat this one. If nothing else, it’s a lesson in humility for one of the biggest players in the golf cart industry, and you better believe this won’t happen again any time soon.
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