Weekly Brief: Audi e-tron Hit by Battery Risk Recall

Audi’s launch of its first electric vehicle, the Audi e-tron SUV, took a turn for the worse last week when the carmaker issued an emergency recall of 1,644 models.

The problem is related to the wires that connect the e-tron’s battery to its charge port – apparently, a faulty grommet seal has allowed moisture to creep into the battery. If enough moisture gets into the battery, it could start a fire. That, thankfully, hasn’t happened yet nor does Audi want it to, so the carmaker voluntarily issued the recall.

It’s the right decision. Remember back in 2016 when those Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones started to spontaneously burst into flames, in people’s pockets and their purses? That resulted in negative publicity for Samsung around the globe – publicity that grew into a full-blown farce when Samsung bungled the recall and the second generation of batteries started catching on fire as well. It ended up costing Samsung more than $5Bn and the phone was eventually eliminated altogether. That’s the nightmare scenario that Audi attempted to avoid last week when it issued its recall. If nothing else, bravo for being proactive.

Still, this is a bad start. The e-tron marks Audi’s first foray into the EV space, where the carmaker is attempting to frame itself as the reliable, drama-free and delay-free alternative to Tesla. Audi’s experience and manufacturing advantage over Tesla should allow it to ramp up production and deliver as many EVs as its customers would like. Tesla by contrast continues to be mired in delays and seems to attract fiascos like moths to a flame, including battery fires and fatal accidents on its Autopilot system. Audi should be able to do better but a recall within its first six months of launching calls that into question. Let’s just hope Audi learns from the ghost of Samsung past and gets the recall right.

In other news, Uber and Lyft took another punch from New York City last week when city officials extended the freeze on new Uber and Lyft drivers in the Big Apple. The city says that the flood of ride-sharing drivers has increased traffic on its streets and imperiled the once thriving yellow cab industry.

Mayor Bill de Blasio first passed a one-year ban on new Uber and Lyft drivers in 2018. He now says that temporary ban is in place for another year and, if he has his way, it will become permanent. “For too long, app companies have taken advantage of hardworking drivers, choking our streets with congestion and driving workers into poverty,” said de Blasio said in a statement. “That era will come to an end in New York City.”

Is this the right approach? That depends on whom you ask. New York certainly isn’t the only major city to be battling the influence of ride-sharing giants. Paris, London, San Francisco, Seattle… the list goes on and surely all of these cities will keep on eye on New York to see how the freeze plays out with residents, cab drivers and the courts. It’s worth noting that back in the 1930s, the city passed a similar ban on new taxi licenses, for fear of the same threat that de Blasio now sees in ride-sharing companies: overcrowding, a flood of new low-wage drivers. Anyone who has ever tried to hail a yellow cab in Queens or the outskirts of Brooklyn can still feel the effect of those yellow-cab bans from a century ago. The presence of Uber and Lyft has made it a lot easier to travel around these parts of the city, especially poorer areas where minorities live but yellow cab drivers don’t want to go.

This logic is part of what Uber has laid out in its lawsuit against New York, which has already been filed in court. We’ll keep you posted on what happens next.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *