Issuing a recall because of a defective product is always going to be trouble for a car company. But Aston Martin, the luxury automaker, will have another factor to contend with next time it does a recall in China: the propaganda department.
The company recalled thousands of autos earlier this month because of counterfeit plastic found in accelerator pedal arms.
Before long, Chinese propaganda officials had taken their cue, spreading anti-Aston Martin articles across Web portals and news sites on the Chinese Internet.
Aston Martin had “passed the buck,” said Xinhua News Agency, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese regime. “But this time ‘Made in China’ is just the scapegoat of the glorious carmaker,” it said.
Xinhua quoted an expert saying “Aston Martin’s careless choice has damaged its reputation,” after carrying out a lengthy explanation and defense of Chinese manufacturing.
It is the job of the regime’s propaganda officials to burnish the image of the People’s Republic of China. A foreign luxury car manufacturer complaining about quality in China would seem to reinforce the widely held impression that China often has quality problems.
The image concerns may be particularly salient in the current economic climate in China, when the Communist Party is supposed to be leading China up the value chain, rather than playing defense against the country’s reputation as rife with low-quality counterfeits.
People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, called Aston Martin “unprofessional.”
The reports came over a week after a Feb. 5 decision by the British sports carmaker to recall over 17,000 vehicles—most of the units it has manufactured since late 2007. The cars are now around the world: 7,271 in Europe, 5,001 in the United States, according to a company representative interviewed by Reuters.
The company said it discovered that a Chinese subsidiary contractor was using lower quality and fake plastic for the accelerator pedal arms, rather than the DuPont plastic material it had instructed be used.
Aston Martin is owned by U.K.-based private equity interests, and companies in Kuwait; its vehicles are driven by James Bond.
The company joins a list of major Western brands to be assailed by Chinese official media channels after having a minor hiccup with their products—or for no reason at all.
Starbucks has been attacked for being too expensive, while Apple was guilty of “unparalleled arrogance” for what Chinese media said were unfair warranty policies in China.
After excoriating Aston Martin, however, Xinhua, the state mouthpiece, seemed to acknowledge the problems in Chinese industry that the propaganda reports had been bristling about.
“Higher levels of technology and quality are the ultimate solution for the unjust stereotype of ‘Made in China’ as cheap and copycat,” the report said.