Bengaluru-based electric vehicle maker Ola Electric recently announced to replace the front fork arm of around two lakh of its electric scooters free of cost amid concerns amongst the community around the safety of Ola S1.
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The company, which is refusing to call the replacement a recall, said that it's a voluntary move and there are no concerns over the safety or design of front folk arms. However, according to sources, the issue mainly concerns scooters manufactured between October 2021 and December 2022.
CNBC TV18 has learned that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of India had already directed Ola to explain and investigate complaints relating to the front fork arm and other safety features three months ago.
Ola, while requesting e-scooters for the recall or as the company calls upgrade, in a statement, said, "We assure you that this is unfounded. At Ola, all components of our scooters, including the front arm, are thoroughly tested under extreme conditions and are engineered with a factor of safety much higher than the typical loads encountered on vehicles.” The company has recently upgraded the front fork design to enhance its durability and strength even further.
While Ola has cited no specific reason, it may be noted that multiple incidents of two-wheeler EVs fire were reported last year, following which the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways penalised EV makers.
GR Arun Kumar, Chief Financial Officer at Ola Electric, in an exclusive interview with CNBC TV18, said, “We are very, very conscious and invest a lot in safety and technology… And hence, it's very clear that there is no design safety issue or fault, it is a upgrade of the front fork arm.”
“For those customers who want to get upgraded with a higher margin of safety in the upgraded one which we have launched into the market sometime in January, they are free to come to our centers and get it replaced free of cost,” added Kumar.
When asked if Ola had informed the government of this exercise, Kumar said, “There is no requirement. It's not a recall and you need not inform the government if it is not a recall. That is very clear. And I don't know informing anybody, there's no such law to the best of my understanding. So government is absolutely irrelevant.”
Kumar further stressed that Ola is setting new benchmarks for the industry and said, “We are living a very responsible cycle of responsible OEM aiding the electric revolution. As I earlier told you, we are the first company to get our products homologated under the new battery safety standards, so we are doing absolutely the right thing for the customer and in the interest of the consumer, and in setting new benchmarks for the industry.”
BVR Subbu, Board Member at Ola Electric, while explaining about social media perception of the company, said, “I am not saying it's to control social media perception, but it is created by social media, a rampant proliferation of social media… There is an absolute confidence that of the management and therefore of the board, in the process that has been followed whether in the integrity of design, or in the integrity of materials, or the integrity of the manufacturing process.”
Subbu further added “There is this reality that we face today. In social media, you get mountains being made out of molehills. Now, in such circumstances, what do you do? You will tell customers there is no problem. We are convinced that we are confident that the design of the product is fine. It meets all norms, it has met the norm, we have added significant safety margins in our design, and it's performing very well for over two lakh vehicles.”
Free upgrade of the front fork arm will be available with an appointment window opening on 22 March, according to the announcement. The company will reach out to customers with a detailed process for booking an appointment soon, Ola added.