The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally released information about the upcoming Aprilia RSV4 engine recall, and just as we suspected here at Motorcycle.com, the culprit was a faulty batch of connecting rods.
Yes, the same conrods that curtailed the RSV4R’s European launch, attended by our correspondent Tor Sagen. That October media event at the world-class Mugello circuit was halted after five, count’em, FIVE engines blew. Sagen reported at the time Aprilia blamed the problem on a single batch of bad conrods.
Aprilia also said at the time the batch was only used in pre-production models, such as the ones used in Mugello. That was then.
Today, in documents released by the NHTSA, it’s revealed bad connecting rods may have found their way into production model RSV4R and RSV4 Factory models, including all 355 units in America. Aprilia, and parent company Piaggio, discovered the flaw was due to the way a part supplier straightened the conrods. The method used by Italy-based manufacturer SCAM S.r.l. added stresses to the rods that may lead to engine failures.
Setting aside whether it’s a good idea to do business with a company called “scam”, let’s take a look at how Aprilia handled this whole mess.
First thing’s first: announcing a complete engine recall is never good PR. That’s especially true when it’s for the company’s new flagship sportbike. Right from the outset, this looks bad on Aprilia’s part.
Not helping is the initial claim that the problem was limited to a single pre-production batch, and the three months that lapsed before the recall was announced.
To be fair however, companies do have to do a lot of testing before announcing a recall. Dig through the research documents at the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation for documents submitted by manufacturers. It’s fascinating reading. Some documents provide a chronology of when the company first heard of a problem and how they discovered the flaw.
Three months is a fairly common period of time when it comes to recalls. Companies do have to be absolutely thorough in finding the problem, and then they have to figure out how to fix it. It’s also important to note there have been no warranty claims due to engine blow-ups.
Aprilia did make a good move in offering free pick-up and towing of RSV4 motorcycles to service centers. Another good decision was to send fully-prepped engines to dealerships with wiring harnesses, throttle bodies, airboxes and ECU all put together. That makes it easier for techs to perform the engine swap and minimizes the risk of anything else going wrong in the process.
It’s going to take Aprilia some time to rebuild consumer confidence after all this. The fact is however, things could have been much worse. Just look at the mess Toyota’s currently going through for its recent recall campaign with cars and unintended acceleration. First the problem was poorly designed floor mats, then it was faulty gas pedals. Now the feds are investigating whether the problem is with Toyota’s electronics.
January 2010 recall notices
2010 Aprilia RSV4R Engine Failure Delays Press Launch
2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Review
2010 Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati 1198S vs. KTM RC8R