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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Saturday, 08 December 2007

Interesting response I received in the post last week, a letter from Renault UK in response to my previous letter, advising them that I still feel the are not providing full remedial support to prevent the incidents of bonnet catch failures occurring in the future.

The first extract is my original letter to Renault, followed by their response - and finally my commentary on their response - enjoy:

MY LETTER:

"The occurrences of the bonnet catch failures affecting Renault Clio's are still happening, Renault's remedy of preventive notification is simply not working.

What are the facts that has led Renault to believe it is 'lack of maintenance' that is the cause of the incidents? Is it because you were unable to identify the actual causes, which Renault has highlighted to me? Surely this goes against the grain for an organisation which promotes vehicle safety and respects its customers? There is nothing in Renault's or VOSA reports that indicates maintenance being the only cause of the issue; implying that even with a full investigation, uncertainty remains within Renault and
VOSA.

Renault's analysis based on the fact that a two-catch system cannot fail together, longing the bonnet is closed correctly and checked. The issue that we have is that even after a bonnet is closed correctly and checked, does not always means the catches are fully engaged, which, with evidence, has shown can result in bonnets flying up during
transit.

A mechanism doesn't have to be broken to indicate a design flaw. If the catches failed to engage following the normal closure procedure, in adherence to your bonnet closure and maintenance instructions, then this indicates an apparent failing in the operation of the mechanism.
Any device that was designed and manufactured as "maintenance-free" and later turns out to require maintenance indicates a flaw in your design and testing process.

What is Renault going to do to stop these occurrences happening? Is your safety recall process and notification process failing?"


Renault UK's response from Alex Phelan:

"We have never stated that the issue is solely down to maintenance. Our position after investigating the matter is that the two reasons [that the] bonnet can open unexpectedly are if the vehicle has not been maintained and if the bonnet has not been closed as prescribed. VOSA, using their own qualified vehicle examiners, have investigated the matter and reached the same conclusion. Renault UK and VOSA are not confused about the conclusions which have been reached by our respective organisations.

VOSA have no commercial or organisational links to Renault UK. We have gone to great lengths to remind customers to maintain their vehicles and to ensure they are familiar with the method we prescribe for closing the bonnet. VOSA have set criteria for the type of incidents which should be the subject of a recall. They are clear that this is not such an incident. However, Renault UK went beyond our obligations in writing to the owners of Clio II in the UK to remind them of the procedure for closing the bonnet and to invite them
into their nearest dealer to check the condition of the bonnet mechanisms."

Hmmm...My comments are:

1. I accept that the implied maintenance and bonnet closure as to separate "actions". However, they are linked, because regardless how one closes the bonnet (the mechanism is straightforward after all), there is a link caused by lack of maintenance which can mean the
bonnet is not actually "closed properly". Direct link to cause and effect.

2. Renault were actually liable for any maintenance faults - as not outlined in their servicing programme prior to January 2007 - therefore any such incidents should be the responsibility of Renault UK - i.e. to cover all damage costs.

3. Linking to point 1) above, the bonnet was closed as prescribed, in a number of cases (okay maybe not 100% of reported cases - but large majority!), but this point I don't think comes into play, as it appears to just be Renault Clio owners who can't close the bonnet properly. What evidence do they have to indicate the bonnet was not
closed as prescribed? There is none - this is the same as evidence to prove the bonnet was closed properly - there is no evidence on this either.

4. VOSA has qualified examiners. They do, but rely on the evidence from the manufactures own technical expertise / personnsel. VOSA openly admit that they didn't have the knowledge on bonnet catches and turned to Renault UK and Renault France to advise them. Confusion between VOSA and Renault UK on roles and responsibilities then?

5. VOSA have simply implied they see no evidence of a defect - this is not saying that there isn't a defect either.

6. Great lengths to communicate to customers? But this process is generally failing - why separate mailshots - why not all in one go?

7. Set criteria set by VOSA for a recall. VOSA advised this was not an incident requiring a recall. However, VOSA implied what Renault UK did was a recall, even though Renault UK don't commit that this was the case.

In short, nothing new from Renault - as if I were expecting anything different!

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