* Carmaker is latest global company to come under fire
* Firm's China sales nearly tripled in 2013 -consultancy
* China car sales seen at 272 last year vs 102 in 2012
(Adds background on other companies, business details)
By Kazunori Takada
SHANGHAI, Feb 14 Aston Martin has become the
latest global company to feel the ire of China's state media,
facing accusations that the luxury carmaker invoked a stereotype
of low-quality 'Made in China' manufacturing in a sweeping
recall to mask its own shortcomings.
The backlash follows a Feb. 5 decision by the British firm
to recall over 17,000 sports cars, most of the vehicles it has
produced since late 2007. Aston Martin, controlled by Kuwaiti
and private equity investors, said it had discovered a Chinese
sub-supplier was using counterfeit material in its accelerator
Critical coverage of international companies over pricing,
safety and business practices in China has become more
commonplace, sometimes affecting sales there.
Big names like Apple Inc, Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, Yum Brands Inc and Volkswagen AG
have all attracted criticism. In the case of Yum Brands,
operator of KFC and Pizza Hut fast food restaurants, negative
coverage over a food safety scandal deterred customers, hitting
Like other makers of high-end vehicles, the maker of exotic
sports cars with price tags running into hundreds of thousands
of dollars has pinpointed wealthy customers in China, the
world's biggest auto market, as a potential source of future
growth. According to consultancy Automotive Foresight (Shanghai)
Co, Aston Martin sold 272 cars in China in 2013, nearly triple
the 102 it sold in 2012.
The official Xinhua news agency on Friday joined other local
media in criticising Aston Martin, whose cars have been featured
in James Bond spy movies, saying it failed to recognise
mismanagement of its own supply chain.
"Aston Martin's latest recall again passed the buck for poor
quality of products, but this time 'Made in China' is just the
scapegoat of the glorious carmaker," Xinhua said in a report
headlined, "Aston Martin plays 'Made in China' blame game".
"Higher levels of technology and quality are the ultimate
solution for the unjust stereotype of 'Made in China' as cheap
and copycat," Xinhua said.
Officials at Aston Martin in Britain could not immediately
be reached for comment.
SUPPLY CHAIN WOES
The Aston Martin recall, involving 17,590 cars, highlights
the challenges global carmakers face in securing parts thousands
of miles away in China.
According to documents filed with a U.S. regulator, Aston
Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co Ltd, a southern
China-based subcontractor that moulds the affected accelerator
pedal arms, was using counterfeit DuPont plastic
The documents said Kexiang was a third-tier supplier
contracted to mould accelerator pedal arms by a Hong Kong
company, Fast Forward Tooling, which in turn was contracted by a
manufacturer based in Britain.
In a report published earlier in the week, the official
People's Daily quoted a Kexiang manager, Zhang Zhiang, as saying
his company was established only in August 2010 and its outdated
equipment and limited workspace did not allow it to take large
orders from carmakers like Aston Martin.
People's Daily said it was unable to reach officials at Fast
Forward's registered addresses, and a Chinese supplier that
Aston Martin said provided the plastic material to Kexiang did
not have a business registry.
"The company's (Aston Martin's) management has unavoidable
responsibility for the problem," the newspaper said.
When contacted by Reuters earlier this month, another
Kexiang manager Zhang Ronghui said he was aware of the recall of
Aston Martin parts, but denied any direct involvement with the
A visit by a Reuters reporter to the Hong Kong address for
Fast Forward cited in Aston Martin's document found it to be
that of a small legal and secretarial firm where the company had
registered its business but had no actual presence.
(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)