Some Acura Sedans Recalled Over Possible Tire Damage (Blame Robots)

Acura is recalling 19 TLX Sedans over concerns that a robot might have damaged the vehicles’ tires during the loading process.

The rebellious robot has been a key element in many a science-fiction story.

A machine built by humans to serve humans suddenly gets its circuits out of joint and pretty soon the androids are getting antsy.

Real life is not even remotely like “WestWorld” — at least not yet — but you still want to keep an eye on all your devices.

Robots have been a vital element in the auto industry for decades. 

Unimate, the first industrial robot system, was introduced in 1961 on a General Motors  (GM) – Get Free Report assembly line in New Jersey. 

One of Unimate’s biggest responsibilities was spot welding, and that list expanded to other duties over time. The Stanford Arm was developed in 1969, followed by the Silver Arm in 1974,

The use of robots has expanded rapidly over the years and estimates now say that half of industrial-robot purchases in North America have been made by automakers.

Acura, Honda’s  (HMC) – Get Free Report luxury brand, recently had a robot problem that prompted the automaker to recall just 19 TLX Sedans. 

The Japanese tire supplier Bridgestone found that the tires equipped on a small number of the vehicles “may have sustained cuts/tears to the bead area during their tire sorting and loading process,” according to a filing with the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration. 

Damaged Tires Could Deflate Rapidly

Bridgestone said the plastic “shoe” of a robotic arm used to unstack tires — known as the depalletizer — rotated out of position. 

This exposed a sharp edge on the robotic arm of the depalletizer to the inside of certain tires, the filing said, 

The bead areas of a small quantity of tires may have been cut by this edge during the unstacking process.

NHTSA said that if the tire sustained cuts or tears to the bead area, over time air and moisture could damage the tire’s belts or bead wires.

“As a result, the tire could deflate rapidly, potentially leading to a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash or injury,” the filing said.

Vehicles equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system may detect and notify drivers of a loss of tire air pressure at higher-than-normal rates. 

If undetected, damage could progress over time and the tires could exhibit noise, vibration, handling disturbance, sidewall bulges, and irregular tread wear.

 All the affected TLXs were manufactured on Sept. 1.

As of Dec. 15, Honda had not received any warranty claims, field reports, or reports of injuries or crashes related to this issue.

Registered owners of all affected vehicles will be contacted by mail and advised to take their vehicles to an authorized Acura dealer.

The dealer will inspect all four tires, and if a tire is within the affected date range, it will replace it with a new tire.

Tire loading and unloading is now performed by humans rather than a robot, the filing said.

First Acura All-Electric Models Are on Track

Separately, Honda said on Dec. 20 that development work on Acura’s first all-electric models — the 2024 ZDX and ZDX Type S performance variant — was continuing as “testing extends to real-world conditions.”

Acura’s first zero-emission production models, the 2024 ZDX and ZDX Type S, will be officially unveiled in 2023. 

In October, Honda said that it would build a lithium-ion battery factory in Fayette County, Ohio, about 40 miles southwest of Columbus.

Honda and LG Energy Solution intend to invest $3.5 billion initially and hire 2,200 employees in the joint venture. They plan to spend a total of $4.4 billion overall.

The automaker also plans to spend more capital to retool three plants in Ohio at a cost of $700 million, plus hire 300 new employees to ramp up more production of EVs.

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