‘We have failed’: A product recall done right

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It’s something no brand wants to go through: having to recall a product that’s already made it into the hands of consumers. It’s embarrassing, expensive, and can have a serious impact on the brand’s reputation in the marketplace.

It’s not uncommon for brands to seek to downplay the issue, to tackle the recall in a clinical, business-like manner. Curve has taken a different approach.

On Thursday, the seven-year-old Australian bike and components brand announced its first-ever product recall. At least from a communications perspective, Curve’s announcement is a great example of how to take ownership of your mistakes and do whatever is necessary to make amends.

In an email and website post entitled “The statement we didn’t want to write”, Curve announced that the most recent batch of its GXR forks is being recalled “due to a manufacturing defect”.

According to Curve’s investigations, the “over-grinding” of an area near the brake mounts created a weak spot in the forks. While the forks had passed the usual strength and bending tests, they failed the ISO 4210-6 5.6.3 “brake fatigue test” which “replicates 20,000 repetitions of extremely heavy braking”.

According to Curve, 54 of the 200 forks in the affected batch had already been dispatched to customers or stores but “no incidents have occurred”. Curve has contact all impacted customers and shops and offered three options:

– A refund for the fork at retail value
– A replacement with an equivalent third party (non-Curve branded) fork
– A replacement with a Curve GXR fork.

The recall affects forks that have been in circulation since December 2019. They can be identified by new artwork, as seen in the image below. If you’ve been affected by this recall, or if you’re not sure whether your fork is affected, contact Curve.

The thing that stands out most about Curve’s statement is the humility weaved throughout. It would be easy for the brand to follow others in taking a hard-nosed, “here are the facts” approach — which, to be fair, might be required in cases where government agencies are involved — but instead the brand has offered its heartfelt apologies to those affected by this voluntary recall.

“Firstly, sorry,” the statement reads. “We are extremely sorry and embarrassed to have put you or any customer in this position, especially now during this current climate of hardship. Curve has directed all its energy into correcting this issue.

“We are committed to making this up to you and to ourselves. While we managed to catch this problem early, it wasn’t early enough; these forks should not have been ridden. While it’s ‘only 54 forks’ and many cycling brands have experienced this on a much larger scale, it’s a club that we didn’t want to be part of.

“We’re a brand built on making products that last, but unfortunately, in this case, we have failed. We are a young brand and people have only just learned to put their trust in us. Now we must rebuild this trust and improve our processes.”

It’s hard to admit you’ve made a mistake, particularly when, as Curve notes, you’re a young brand still trying to build your reputation in a competitive global marketplace. But the reality is that if you’re in the business of making and selling stuff, recalls are going to happen. And by their very nature, product recalls do impact consumer confidence, and especially when it comes to bike forks — one component you really don’t want to fail. The question then becomes: how should you deal with a recall?

As Curve has shown, there are steps you can take to minimise the impact of such an unfortunate incident. Humility, transparency and a willingness to swiftly resolve the issue all go a long way to help reassure customers, both present and future.

So chapeau, Curve, and good luck.

Curve’s statement in full

The statement we didn’t want to write.

Curve is currently going through its first product recall. The most recent batch of GXR forks (SKU: CVFK049-GXR SN HJ2019080XXXX) made late in 2019 is being recalled due to a manufacturing defect.

Firstly, sorry.

We are extremely sorry and embarrassed to have put you or any customer in this position, especially now during this current climate of hardship. Curve has directed all its energy into correcting this issue.

We’ve managed to capture the problem quickly, but unfortunately it has delayed current Kevin of Steel orders and upcoming Kevin titanium builds. Most embarrassingly, a number of customers had actually received them. Thankfully no incidents have occurred and we’ve reached out to each customer for return and to resolve the issue.

Will my fork be effected?

No, not likely. Problem forks have only been in circulation since December 2019 and can be identified by new artwork, as shown below and by serials number as stated previously. If you are uncertain, contact us immediately for assessment.

If you want all the gory details please feel free to read on, or feel free to reach out for a chat.

We uncovered the problem mid batch, when QC found a few misaligned forks. This immediately prompted independent testing on the batch. The GXR forks are tested under the ISO 4210 benchmarks, and while it passed all the usual strength and bending tests, it failed the ISO 4210-6 5.6.3 brake fatigue test, which replicates 20,000 repetitions of extremely heavy braking.

One hundred forks from this batch were allocated to our Kevin of Steel project which is now on hold, and the other hundred black painted forks were intended to be sold individually or with GXR Titanium bikes. Unfortunately, 54 of the 200 forks have already been dispatched to customers or stores.

We invested heavily in developing this fork, and despite this recall, the GXR fork will continue to be a success; it has done thousands of kilometres of extreme adventures all across the globe.

So what happened here?

Our investigations have revealed a manufacturing fault in this batch, where the “over-grinding” of an area created a weak spot near the brake mounts. Subsequent testing revealed that the manufacturer’s internal testing equipment was not calibrated to the higher standards that we require from this fork.

What processes were already in place to protect customers?

Curve has global insurance policies in place to cover personal injury. Thankfully no customer forks have failed out in the real world and no incidents have arisen. It is Curve’s main priority to ensure our customers are safe and able to confidently enjoy Curve products.

What actions have we taken?

We’ve traced the serial number of every recalled fork and made contact with impacted customers and shops, offering three options:

– A refund for the fork at retail value.
– A replacement with an equivalent third party (non-Curve branded) fork.
– A replacement with a Curve GXR Fork, due in May.

We are committed to making this up to you and to ourselves. While we managed to catch this problem early, it wasn’t early enough; these forks should not have been ridden. While it’s “only 54 forks” and many cycling brands have experienced this on a much larger scale, it’s a club that we didn’t want to be part of.

We’re a brand built on making products that last, but unfortunately, in this case, we have failed. We are a young brand and people have only just learned to put their trust in us. Now we must rebuild this trust and improve our processes.

In light of this we have set up new independent testing facilities to test future batches of forks: one here in Australia and an independent testing facility in Taiwan. We have also imposed more stringent and comprehensive QC testing standards at the fork manufacturing facility. The same rigorous testing standards are being applied across Curve’s entire product range, from frames to thru-axles.

Once again, we extended our sincere and deepest apologies for our failure. We are working night and day to resolve the issue as quickly and possible, to deliver solutions at the highest possible standard while avoiding inconveniencing our valued customers as much as we can. If there is anything we can do to help, or if you have any questions or feedback please reach out to our friendly team via sales@curvecycling.com.

Thank you and stay safe.

Curve Crew

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