All about bicycles, electric-assisted bikes, technology and safety in the press

In our daily work as we deal with bicycle safety, technology and user manuals we come across lots of safety risks. The most frequent ones are published in articles of the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR – Europas Rennrad-Magazin Nr. 1, BIKE – Das Mountainbike Magazin Europas Nr. 1 and E-Bike – Das Pedelec-Magazin to make this information important for the sector accessible to a wider public.

For many years now the Eurobike Show Daily accompanying the annual international Eurobike Show has given us the opportunity to publish our perspective on major developments in the cycle industry in full-page articles.

We also speak regularly in independent lectures about all topics relating to bicycle technology and bicycle market. In addition, we are regularly cited by further special-interest magazines or trade journals as well as more and more by radio and television and in their media reports, which shows us that we are completely right with our information. The section NEWS informs you about the latest news from our specialist fields. The reports and publications of this section are listed chronologically or according to topics of interest.

RadMarkt 03/2013

In favour of an error culture

Special edition e-bike – how to correctly conduct a product recall

During the DVM-workshop "Operational strength of e-bikes" on November 8, 2012 bicycle expert Dirk Zedler held a lecture about the correct conduct of product recalls and when they are inevitable. Even if his case studies are mainly sporty ones with carbon as the predominant material, his statements are valid for all product groups and thus also for e-bikes. His credo: Whoever conducts product recalls should not be subject to derision.

The precondition for a recall of a defective product by the manufacturer or importer is that they gain knowledge about the defect. (...)

Manufacturers must undertake preparations to grant the safety even after the product has been placed on the market. "The rules are tough", warns Dirk Zedler. The product safety law holds the producer liable for ten years from the delivery of the product. The decision makers in the manufacturer companies must even fear criminal prosecution when it has been proved that they have refrained from taking measures against their better knowledge to recall a product with a dangerous defect. We are talking about the risks to the physical integrity of the user and other traffic participants, not about plain defects.

The manufacturer can initiate a voluntary recall, i.e. on their own initiative on the basis of their knowledge. In addition, there are recalls ordered by the authorities. These are the reactions of the competent authorities to plausible indications from consumers or dealers. The ordered recall is very uncomfortable for the manufacturer, as it suggests that they have culpably failed to start the recall process by themselves and accepted the risks for the users. From there it’s only a short way to court proceedings and company shutdown, says Zedler.

Zedler named a few recalls that Germany has experienced in the past few years: (...)

Recall without image damage
The speaker finds it inappropriate, when companies get nothing but scorn and derision, as soon as they recall products. (...)

Zedler has registered 149 recalls in the past ten years. Brakes, rims and tyres were rather seldom the reason; in most of the cases the recalls concerned frames, forks, handlebars and stems. In the past years he was increasingly dealing with seat posts in his function as expert. Zedler is astonished at the fact that a load-bearing part is mostly fixed with no more than a single bolt. A two-bolt-solution would provide the necessary redundancy. There are nevertheless only very few recalls of this part. In the automotive sector there are five as much recalls, Zedler has found out by analysing the German automotive magazine "ADAC-Motorwelt". "In the automotive sector the recall is normal business, rather than something particular", states Zedler. The recalls are even used as image cultivation, because in principle the automotive industry could revert to the customer data base of the car dealers to contact all owners; nevertheless they publicly start a recall of the lots concerned. (...)

Process of a product recall
To conduct a recall is a sophisticated process and needs preparation. (...)

Data bases make smart
To be able to conduct a recall at all, the manufacturer must take internal precautions, i.e. ensure the traceability of his products. (...)

Liability with conditions
Error prevention and error elimination require respective precautionary measures which also include the supply chain. In framework contracts with pre-suppliers it should be stipulated, who shall examine respective cases and make statements, from which risk rate on the recall should be started and who should decide whether a recall is started. (...)

Principles of the recall:

  • A recall is always inevitable when a defect in the product causes the risk of an accident.
  • A voluntary recall is always better than a recall ordered by the authorities.
  • Derision for a recall is inappropriate. Omitted recalls are more likely to give rise to criticism.
  • Frames, forks, handlebars and stems are mainly concerned by recalls. Seat posts are more rarely subject to a recall than you would think from their risk potential.
  • Dealer complaints must be collected and analysed systematically, to determine the loss frequencies.
  • In a recall the component to be replaced must be described in word and picture; it should also be decided whether the component should be sent in or destroyed.
  • The manufacturer’s liability insurance does not automatically cover every loss. This can also depend on the measures initiated by the manufacturer.

Author: Michael Bollschweiler

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