Nautilus activates second Bowflex recall this year with CPSC

Finding a pattern in equipment failure or injury reports from some Bowflex Power Pro and Ultimate home gyms, Nautilus in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated a voluntary recall on Nov. 16 to repair seat pins and incline support brackets.
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Finding a pattern in equipment failure or injury reports from some Bowflex Power Pro and Ultimate home gyms, Nautilus in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated a voluntary recall on Nov. 16 to repair seat pins and incline support brackets.

This recall, which affects 680,000 Power Pro gyms without a Lat Tower and 102,000 Ultimate gyms made before September 2002, was initiated after the company went back into its incident report files after a January 2004 recall and found a pattern that had produced about 88 incidents of pin or bracket failures or injuries, including two that involved head stitches. The seat pins or support brackets could break and allow a seat to move or drop or an inclined bench to suddenly drop to a flat position.  

Nautilus took its findings to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in early summer, resulting in the current recall. As a part of the current action, seat pin repair kits were mailed to all known owners of the product, and incline support bracket repair kits will be shipped to owners when they respond to a postcard notice.

The recall in January, also in cooperation with the CPSC, involved two safety issues on approximately 420,000 Bowflex Power Pro models with a Lat Tower attachment sold from January 1995 to December 2003. In that incident, Nautilus and the CPSC had received more than 88 reports of a backboard bench cracking and collapsing and a Lat Tower rotating and falling, resulting in injuries to back, neck, shoulder and face. At that time, the company confirmed three lawsuits had been filed. (See SNEWS® story, Jan. 30, 2004, "Nautilus recalls 420,000 Bowflex units after injury reports.") Less than a week later, it also doubled its five-year warranty to 10 years on the Power Pro models, one of the original Bowflex gyms. Other models carry warranties of between five and 10 years (See SNEWS® story, Feb. 4, "Nautilus doubles warranty after announcing recall.")

In both recall cases, the gyms were sold both direct-to-consumer and at specialty retailers, although most were sold directly to consumers since retail sales had only recently begun. In the latest recall, the CPSC said the gyms were sold from January 1995 through April 2004 for between $1,200 and $1,600.

"The same people and the same units could be involved, but it could be a different fix," said Ron Arp, Nautilus senior vice president of corporate communications. "We generally deal with these (incident reports) one-by-one, but at some point you start to take a look backward and you say, 'Let's study the pattern.'"

This recall means that to date this year 1.2 million repairs were made available under federal recall on various Bowflex home gyms, all made in either China or Taiwan. The company estimates that a total of about 2 million have been sold since they were introduced.

Nautilus quality standards
Partly based on a push by a new management team to build consistency and higher quality in the last year and partly based on the federal recall in January, Nautilus hired a senior vice president of manufacturing and operations, Holly Valkama, and other staff who have been building what the company has called a "Nautilus Standard for Quality." What that means is the company is reviewing industry standards in design, manufacturing and durability or function for every category of equipment and coming up with its own standards and testing criteria that it deems "minimum."

"We wanted to set the bar higher," Valkama told SNEWS®. "When the other recall came to us, we said, 'This is not what it's supposed to be.

"We wanted to step back and ask, 'What are the engineering standards around the world,…and where are we in relation to them?'" Valkama said.

Recalls, reports of accidents, and injuries weren't "epidemic," she added about their combing of files, "but it wasn't at the level with what we wanted to be…. We knew we could be doing this better."

To address the expense of the latest recall, the company has accrued more than $2 million in its warranty reserve as of Sept. 30, 2004, which Nautilus CFO Rod Rice said in a statement he believes will cover all costs of the repair kit recall. At the time of the January recall, the company said it estimated the cost of that recall program not to exceed $2.6 million, and that the company took a $3 million reserve in September 2003 to address it.

Retailers can direct consumers to either www.bowflex.com (a small link is at the bottom of the page) or consumers can call 1-800-820-8604 between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. PT Monday through Saturday. According to the CPSC, if an owner participated in the January 2004 recall, they will automatically receive a repair kit in the mail.

The Power Pro is no longer being manufactured by the company, although spokesman Arp said the company is still clearing out some in inventory. Nautilus now has five models with two more on the way. To read the federal recall notice and see a picture, click here.

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