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Uber knowingly rented defective cars to Singapore drivers

Uber’s lease and rental operations in the U.S. have drawn scrutiny for shady deal partners and the debt it puts on drivers, and now it appears the company compromised safety in its Singapore rental operation.

A Honda SUV leased to an Uber driver in Singapore caught fire this past January, one of a thousand such vehicles purchased to rent to Singaporean drivers by the troubled ride-hailing behemoth, according to according to emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The cars were part of a recall issued by Honda in 2016 because of an electrical defect that could cause the vehicle to overheat, and the WSJ report says Uber executives knew about this recall prior to leasing the vehicles out.


While this appears to be the first time Uber has been caught leasing cars under recall to its drivers , under former CEO Travis Kalanick the company struggled with safety issues and local regulations. (Kalanick greenlit the Singapore car purchases, and apparently there’s no consequence to the company leasing cars under recall, as it’s still operating in Singapore.)

Uber and Lyft have exited markets over disputes with local regulators about fingerprint background checks for their drivers, and Uber’s self-driving cars were forced off San Francisco streets in late 2016 because the company didn’t obtain a $150 permit to test the vehicles in California (Uber’s autonomous cars have since returned to California roads).

In Singapore, reported the Journal, Uber executives nixed a proposal from other employees to take the recalled cars off the road because it would cost the company about $1 million a week. One Uber manager said in an email that 65 percent of the faulty SUVs had not yet been repaired by the end of February, although Uber said in a statement to VICE News that all the Hondas have since been fixed.

“We acknowledge we could have done more — and we have done so. We’ve introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in-house at [our Singapore rental unit] whose sole job is to ensure we are fully responsive to safety recalls,” the statement said. “Since the beginning of the year, we’ve proactively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber.”

Though Travis Kalanick is no longer running Uber (he retains a seat on its board of directors), the startup is still reckoning with his legacy of aggressive management and with Kalanick himself. The search for a replacement CEO stalled recently after HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman took herself out of contention, and Kalanick himself is reportedly attempting a comeback.

This hasn’t appeared to dent Uber’s bottom line in Singapore — yet. Amazon last week launched its Prime Now delivery service, and it is already so popular that Amazon has begun using Uber drivers to help meet the demand.