Automotive Chery Omoda 5 CHinese brand

Published on April 15th, 2024 | by Subhash Nair


Chery Omoda 5 Brake “Issue”: Who’s Right? Was Enough Done?

We analyze the Chery Omoda 5 braking situation that has unfolded over the last 2 weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, a video went viral on Facebook. It was uploaded by the owner of a Chery Omoda 5 who was in distress, parked by the KESAS Awan Besar toll booth complaining about the brakes of her car not working. Chery Malaysia were quick to respond, issuing a statement and giving the complainant a donor car within 24 hours, way better than the response we’ve seen from more established brands in the past. About a week later, we got Chery’s full report which involved their own technicians and Puspakom’s too. The report found absolutely nothing wrong with the car, but this leaves more questions than it does answers. What about the brake-related recall that Australian customers have been subjected to? Was this complainant genuine, someone looking for a buy-back or perhaps even a paid agent from a competitor? If she was genuine, was she perhaps mistaken? Let’s attempt to look at these possibilities starting with our most favoured theory: human error.

Chery Omoda 5 rear

Possibility #1: Human Error

5-time New York Times bestseller Malcolm Gladwell is pretty good at digging deep into stories and I remember listening to a podcast episode a few months ago about the 2009-2011 Toyota braking scandals. These were widely publicized and were Akio Toyoda’s trial-by-fire as he entered the role of President at his grandfather’s company amidst a global economic recession. In Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast episode, he revisits the scandal with experts to show how it was likely human error that was at the root of the problem. Listen to it yourself here:

Human error is the main reason for road accidents even today with modern safety systems in place. To be fair we’re not putting the blame on the complainant here, but we must entertain the very likely possibility that either the brakes were not bled properly by the technician or that the floor mat (if it was aftermarket or unfastened) was wedged under the brake pedal or that improper footwear was a contributing factor. Her video, while quite distressing to watch, doesn’t properly prove to us that the brake systems weren’t working. It’s filmed frantically and doesn’t really demonstrate the problem clearly. There’s no additional evidence submitted in the form of dashcam footage. But let’s look at some other possibilities while assuming that her complaint about the brakes were genuine.

Possibility #2: Corporate Sabotage

We all know that Chery Malaysia’s expansion has been very aggressive. This Chinese car manufacturer has hired many top talents from rival brands and are the first non-national carmaker to be allowed to price their products within 5% of Proton’s own cars. We’ve also heard rumours that certain Chery models are outselling Proton models. While we don’t think corporate sabotage between two professional brands is likely, there’s no telling how people on the ground are handling this unprecedented situation. Dealers and salespeople may be hurting from the competition and feeling pressure to keep sales numbers up. Is it possible that the complainant or a member of Chery’s own dealership was paid to create this situation? It’s a nefarious scenario, but one that isn’t outside the realm of possibility in these economic circumstances.

Possibility #3: Corporate Cover-Up

We are also aware that Chery has issued a brake-related recall for Omoda 5 models sold in the Australian market. This recall concerns a manufacturing defect causing brake fluid to leak, literally reducing braking performance and increasing the risk of an accident resulting in serious injury or death. That is how it is described. Could this Omoda 5 unit be affected? Maybe, maybe not. Recalls are often region-specific. But let’s just entertain the possibility that the recall does affect Malaysian units. From a legal and cost point of view, Chery Malaysia MAY be better off denying responsibility, denying the need for a recall and quietly fixing the issue as and when it appears. Yes, it may come at the cost of brand reputation, but as long as nothing is admitted, then the public can only speculate as to the veracity of the complainant’s video.

Was Chery’s Response Enough?

We mentioned before that Chery Malaysia was very quick in their response and this is to be commended. Other manufacturers have ignored, shifted blame and come up with creative copywriting in response to safety issues but Chery took the problem head on. They sent the car in to the national vehicle inspection service, Puspakom and had it evaluated also by their own staff. In any other country, their response would have been pretty solid. Malaysia is not any other country.

In Malaysia there are 3 issues that make Chery’s response feel inadequate. The first is the lack of Lemon Laws in Malaysia. We’ve been advocating them for years and yes, the government is paying more attention to this now and JPJ even has a recall channel. Unfortunately this is very insufficient, ASEAN NCAP and MIROS prove to be toothless safety agencies and we still are at the mercy of car manufacturers to take responsibility and voluntarily issue product recalls. Without directives and cost coverage from headquarters, many local brand guardians have no incentive to do so.


Finally, there’s the issue of trust in Chinese brands, particularly Chinese car brands. Chinese knick knacks, smartphones, appliances, and very sophisticated electronics have all proven to be trustworthy. But cars are different. With the right pricing, equipment design and branding, the issue of brand snobbery can be overcome, but safety and aftersales require years of effort and a lot of money. All of that can fall apart very easily once there’s even an element of doubt.

So it’s an unfortunate situation for all parties involved. We’ll be keeping a close eye and giving updates as the situation continues to evolve.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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