In a wave of announcements and press releases, John Deere recalled three different models of lawn tractors last week. The famous green and yellow machine company announced all recalls separately and for different reasons.
So we tracked down Maureen McCormack, segment manager in media relations at John Deere, to talk about how her company handles recalls and how they deal with the pressure of three recalls in three days.
“Of course no company ever wants to have a recall, but at John Deere we put the safety of our customers as a top priority,” said McCormack. “It’s truly a coincidence that all these items are happening at the same time.”
On Sept. 14, John Deere and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of D100 lawn tractors for problems with the brake assembly that could lead to the brakes failing. No incidents were reported.
That same day, they announced the recall of four other D100 series lawn tractors that had problems with the assemblies of the mower blade brake to the mower deck that could cause the blade to spin after turning off power; again, no incidents were reported.
Then on Sept. 16, they recalled three models of X300 series tractors because the cooling fan on the Kawsaki engine could break causing the engine to overheat. Kawasaki brought the issue to John Deere’s attention and has worked with the CPSC.
“Actually, Kawasaki brought the issue to our attention. They initiated the process with the CPSC and Kawasaki has been fully engaged in the issue,” said McCormack.
But even smooth, professional handling of recalls can’t hide the numbers: three recalls in three days isn’t something in the news every day and undoubtedly puts some stress on a company.
“It’s unfortunate that we have three separate recalls at one time, but that’s why we have safety and quality standards in place to catch potential problems. It’s a good thing that we’re catching them,” said McCormack.
“These are three separate issues concerning parts manufactured by three different suppliers.”
McCormack said an automated message directs consumers with recalled equipment to contact their local dealer for a free at-home inspection, which saves their call center the flood of in-person calls that would normally take place. The at-home aspect is routine for John Deere since not everyone can easily transport something as large as a tractor, so inspections at home instead of at the dealer are routine.
John Deere also has the fortune of having a network of dealers that the company refers customers to for case-by-case questions, taking some of the burden off of corporate John Deere. Their recalls also involve fixable products meaning that a quick inspection and repair should take care of the problems that prompted the recall, letting John Deere get by without having to collect products and replace or refund money as is the case with many other recalls.
To remedy the recall, John Deere is replacing affected parts and doing repairs on the tractors for free at a consumer’s local authorized dealer. McCormack added that those who bought their tractors at “mass channel” stores like home improvement stores should still contact their local dealer.
Part of the problem with reaching consumers for John Deere will be to contact tractor owners who didn’t register their products. John Deere dealerships automatically register customers in the company’s warranty database, but customers shopping at Home Depot, for example, might not register their product on their own.
“There’s always the concern that people haven’t registered their product, there’s that concern across every industry,” said McCormack “It makes it important that you do have your warranty registered.”
To registered owners, John Deere mailed out letters. Other than that, the company is relying on posters in retail stores and press releases like the ones put out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to spread the message of the more than 57,000 tractors affected across all three recalls.
While McCormack said that it’s still too early to tell how many customers responded to the recall and repaired their tractors, but she did say that John Deere won’t turn this into PR for the company.
“There are no PR angles with a recall, we just want to ensure our customers have safe, high-quality products.”