Why Rolls-Royce Issued a Recall for 1 Single Vehicle

Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, LondonPhotograph: James Lipman +44 7803 885275
Source: Rolls-Royce

Luxury car enthusiasts know that when it comes to Rolls-Royce, there’s really no comparison between the elaborate and gilded vehicles manufactured under the brand and the family cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and other mass-produced vehicles that are the hallmark of the mainstream auto industry. But recently, the corporate parent of the British Rolls-Royce marque did something that reinforced its reputation as the cream of the crop.

In November, BMW issued a recall for a single vehicle. That’s right: just one, a 2015 Ghost that sports a price tag of over $300,000. The affected vehicle was manufactured on January 23, 2014.

Many recalls are massive affairs – in just the past couple of months, we’ve covered massive recalls of millions of vehicles like this one and this one — but that’s just not the way that this automaker does business. Of course, Rolls-Royce’s sales operate on a much smaller plane as well; the company reported just several thousand Rolls-Royce units sold last year, compared to the prodigious output of firms like Ford and GM, or even more elite brands like Jaguar or Volvo.

It is interesting that a prior recall from 2011 affected more than one Rolls-Royce Ghost, and was a little more dire, since it revolved around fire safety. Still, airbag recalls are no joke, and as one commentator has noted, since the Ghost has a top speed of 155 miles per hour, it probably needs all of the air bags that have been built into it.

The recent Rolls-Royce recall was for “thorax airbags” — these are the relatively large, long airbags that open at the sides of a seat to cushion the passengers by preventing erratic movement to one side or another. In the case of the Ghost, these airbags just didn’t hold up to the standards of regulators. The problem “may increase the risk of injury to the front seat passengers” according to the NHTSA.

Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, London Photograph: James Lipman +44 7803 885275
Source: Rolls-Royce

Instead of issuing reams of faceless mailings, the company just got in touch with the driver of the vehicle. Reports from the U.K. indicate that although the car in question has been shipped, the American owner had not picked it up yet, making any recall work a lot more convenient.

It’s a stark contrast to the other airbag issues floating in the automotive ether as a result of the Takata airbag scandal, which has enveloped Rolls-Royce’s parent company BMW. “The affected vehicle has thorax air bags fitted to both front seats that may fail to meet the side impact performance requirements for the front seat occupants,” the company said in its filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “As such, this vehicle may fail to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 214, ‘Side Impact Protection.'”

Though recalling one vehicle sounds ridiculous, it’s par for the course when you’re talking about the highest echelons of automotive production. Koenigsegg, known mainly for its abundance of engineering prowess and complete lack of sanity, recalled a single one of its cars for a tire issue in 2014. That cat and mouse game, per The Consumerist, involved chasing the owner of the car between North America and Europe and he moved back and forth with his $1 million (more or less) vehicle.

Rolls-Royce has a slightly higher production figures than Koenigsegg, but the principle is similar: When you don’t have thousands of vehicles rolling off the assembly line daily, tracking down your quality-control-defying units is certainly a hell of a lot easier.

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