How Hot Is Too Hot? Why Over 400K Subarus Had to Return to the Dealer to Cool OffHow Hot Is Too Hot? Why Over 400K Subarus Had to Return to the Dealer to Cool Off


July 26, 2021



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How Hot Is Too Hot? Why Over 400K Subarus Had to Return to the Dealer to Cool Off

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Welcome back to “The Recall Notice.” Last month we discussed how millions of dollars could have been saved on the recent Jaguar F-Type ABS recall if the vehicle had been equipped with a vehicle-wide OTA software solution. These platforms allow OEMs to make remote fixes rather than requiring all affected vehicles to return to the dealership for manual repairs.

This month, we will take a look at the Subaru Engine Computer Module (ECM) recall for certain Impreza cars and Crosstrek SUVs from 2017 to 2019. This recall was submitted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on April 15, 2021, and owner notification began on May 28th.


NHTSA Campaign Number: 21V264000

OEM: Subaru of America Inc.

Components: Ignition Coil

Estimated Vehicles Affected: 466,000

Remedy: Free software update at dealership, potential engine coil replacement

Estimated Cost to OEM: $139M - $233M

What the Problem Was

NHTSA recall 21V264 is the result of a fault in the programming of the Engine Control Module. After the engine is off, the ignition coils remain energized longer than they were designed for which increases the risk of the internal temperature exceeding safe limits. Overheating of the ignition coils can damage other components of the engine. 

Should a damaged fuse blow or a circuit short out while the car is in motion, the driver can experience a loss of power and control. Unless the engine is restarted immediately, the chances of a traffic collision are exceedingly high. Warning signs of ignition coil overheating and damage include abnormal vibrations in the engine and misfiring cylinders.

Scope of the Recall

In total, over 466,000 Subaru vehicles are affected by the NHTSA 21V264 recall. These include over 68,000 Subaru Impreza 4-doors from the 2017-2019 model years, over 139,000 Impreza Station Wagons also from the 2017-2019 model years, and a staggering 257,000 Subaru Crosstrek SUVs, model years 2018-2019.

This is not to be confused with the NHTSA 19V743 recall, which was submitted by NHTSA in October of 2019 and covered the same issue with the ECM. However, the same recall parameters used to determine affected vehicles in 2019 were used in this new 2021 recall.

How Sibros Could Have Helped

At this time, Subaru only offers Over-the-Air (OTA) updates for STARLINK, their in-vehicle navigation and infotainment system. As a result, all recalled Crosstrek SUVs and Impreza cars will have to return to a dealership for a manually installed software update.

Having a vehicle-wide OTA platform in place could have helped mitigate this problem on multiple levels. OTA solutions, such as Sibros Deep Connected Platform, have early detection systems in place. If a specific software-related component starts experiencing issues or responding outside of acceptable parameters, a notification is sent directly to the manufacturer. Rather than publish a recall notice and wait for owners to bring their vehicles in for repair, the OEM can act proactively by creating a customized software update to remedy the problem.

Detecting the problem early on has other benefits as well. When left unchecked certain software issues, like the faulty Subaru ECM, can cause permanent damage to hardware components. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be fixed with a simple software update. However, by monitoring the vehicle’s diagnostics, a connected platform could detect and fix the issue before any serious damage was caused.

Another huge benefit to having an OTA software solution is that the OEM can send targeted updates. Rather than initiate an update to the entire Subaru fleet, affected vehicles can be grouped based on their VINs and receive only the updates that apply to them.

Financial Impact and Savings

Recalls take time and cost money, for all parties involved. The NHTSA sets aside over 19.5 million dollars a year for its recall enforcement budget. As more and more OEMs embrace OTA systems that mitigate the need for manual fixes, the NHTSA will be able to reallot those funds to other essential departments and programs.

There is also a relative cost to drivers who often take time off work and potentially travel long distances to have their vehicle repaired. Manufacturers, however, take an even larger hit. Every automobile brought in for software-related recall repairs costs approximately $300 to $500 for the dealer to fix, which means for the NHTSA 21V264 recall, the manufacturer is looking at between $139M to $233M in financial losses.

In addition, recalls have the potential to adversely affect the company’s stock. There has been speculation that some manufacturers might even try to delay issuing a recall to avoid bad press and help stock prices. Delaying a recall comes with its own risks. Should a driver experience injury due to a recall issue that was withheld, they may attempt to pursue legal action against the OEM.

With a vehicle-wide OTA system in place, there is no need to delay recalls or place your company in a position for liability risk. Instead, the issue can be identified and dealt with quickly and efficiently, with minimal inconvenience to both the customer and the OEM. If you are looking to streamline your recall process and benefit from early detection systems, Sibros can help. Contact us to schedule a personalized demonstration.

Albert Lilly
Albert Lilly
Albert brings over 20 years of industry focused enterprise software marketing and business development experience ranging from VC-backed startups to large scale tech organizations. He is a University of Texas at Austin alumnus.