Subaru welding fail means brand-new cars need to be repaired or replaced

A supplier failed to properly clean part of its machinery, reducing the effectiveness of metal welded between the engine and the passenger compartment.
Image: A 2019 Subaru Outback.
A 2019 Subaru Outback.Subaru

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By Paul A. Eisenstein

CORRECTION (July 18, 2019, 3:25 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article and headline misstated the size and scope of the Subaru recall. The company says it is recalling 2,100 cars, not scrapping them. Of the 2,100 cars, only 200 are likely to need repairs, not all of them. Only 20 of the cars are in the hands of customers. The company has offered to replace or repair those vehicles; the rest have not yet been delivered.

Subaru has discovered a defect so severe that it is planning to buy back a number of Legacy sedans and Outback SUVs that have already landed in owners' driveways.

Faulty welds in the cars could not only lead to an accident, according to the automaker, but increase the risk of injuries to vehicle occupants if one occurs. It plans to recall and check about 2,100 cars for the defect, of which about 200 are expected to need repairs. About 20 of those cars are in the hands of consumers; the rest have yet to be delivered.

The announcement is rare, but not unique, at a time when automotive recalls have been running at or near record levels. Subaru itself staged a similar move a year ago involving a small number of then-new Ascent SUVs.

According to the Japanese automaker, a supplier failed to properly clean part of its machinery, “reducing the effectiveness of (a) welder” that put together sheet metal components used in the cowl, which separates the engine from the passenger compartment, in the Legacy and Outback models. The welds could fail over time.

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The problem was discovered within a week, limiting the extent of the problem, nonetheless, the automaker plans to recall 142 of the Legacy sedans and 1,965 of the Outback SUVs. According to Subaru, the majority of those models had yet to be delivered, but at least 20 are currently in the hands of U.S. buyers.

Those who have recently purchased one of those two products can check to see if their vehicles are affected by going to either the Subaru or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website or call the automaker at 844-373-6614. Subaru also plans to send out alerts to impacted buyers in the coming weeks.

Those who have one of the vehicles covered by the recall will be given the option of having it repurchased by Subaru or replaced.

Buybacks are rare but not unique in the auto industry. Volkswagen, for one, offered to repurchase thousands of vehicles equipped with illegally rigged diesel engines, though some were also repaired.

A year ago, Subaru had to make a similar move when it discovered welding defects on 243 of the then-new Ascent SUV. As with the latest recall, the vast majority of the affected vehicles had not yet been delivered to customers.