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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Saturday, 10 March 2007

Right having arrived back today, I almost can't stop laughing at the implausible and incoherent response that I received from VOSA. Here it is:

"I fully understand your concerns with the 350,000 Renault Clio Mk2 vehicles in use in the UK.

VOSA continues to monitor this situation and has, to date, accompanied Renault Engineers on inspections of 2 vehicles where the bonnet opened whilst the vehicle was in use. In both cases no design or construction deficiency was noted.  However, in both cases the safety catch was not maintained and found to be stuck in the released position. The only conclusion that could be reached in these 2 cases was the bonnet was not closed properly.

In both these cases, VOSA engineers managed to re-shape the bonnets so that they could be correctly closed as prescribed in the vehicle handbook.  Attempts to lift the bonnet when fully closed by 2 persons applying a considerable oscillating force failed to unlatch the bonnet when it was secured by either the main or safety catch.

Additionally, VOSA engineers have selected a further 4 Clio vehicles at random - 2 belonging to VOSA employees and 2 which were at body repairers.  The same methodology was applied to attempt to open the bonnets.  No defects were found.

We have analysed the annual MOT test data, as part of the test includes a specific check on the retaining devices of a bonnet which when opened would obscure the drivers view through the windscreen.  The search for the last year shows there to be a low overall failure for all vehicles types of 0.11%.  For all Renault Clio vehicles this is 0.15% and for those vehicles built between 1998-2002 the failure rate is 0.11% which indicates no significant trend.

It may also be helpful to know that one freelance journalist/researched and a major Insurance Company whom we have been in communication about this matter and who have also investigated this on behalf of our clients, are also of the opinion that this is not a design or construction deficiency.

Therefore, to date, we have no evidence to cause us to reconsider our view which is that this issue is not a matter to be addressed under the terms of the Code of Practice.

Turning now to your question about why didn't the VSB inspect the entire case file.  Renault has kept us informed of the outcome of the inspections they have conducted.  As the responsibility for the investigation rests with them - as it is they who have the detailed product knowledge and experts - and that their findings to date concur with ours, then VOSA sees no need to do so.

Regarding your particular case and our scenarios regarding the performance of the bonnet catches, this is something on which VOSA cannot comment and is a matter for Renault.

We will continue to work with Renault to monitor this situation."

What on earth is going on here....it's kinda like I'm fighting TWO battles here - Renault and VOSA - why?????

Okay, lets put this into context:

  1. No inspections of "damaged cars" were completed - as VOSA simply reviewed Renault's reports into the two cases that were looked into.
  2. VOSA completed a spot-check on 3 other Renault's that were in for servicing at a local garage - not related to the actual "bonnet release incident" though.
  3. VOSA implied to others that no further cases would be looked into, after the first two cases were "reviewed" and no issues were detected.
  4. They then implied that two inspections were attended by VOSA's engineers. However, in a FoI request dated 5th March - this signified that VOSA did not inspect ANY vehicles which experienced the bonnet release incident. Contradiction?
  5. A further 4 cars were "spot-checked", again revealing nothing out of the ordinary.

I feel that this falls way to short for a complete and thorough look into the cases filed to VOSA, they have proven their incompetence and have simply given ammunition to Renault to stand-firm on their previous statements that "no defect" exists!

Comments
Updated correspondence archive file
Written by abrigatti on 2007-03-18 15:22:04
An updated archive of ALL of the correspondence to both organisations has been uploaded to the website, see the link below: 
 
Renault and VOSA Correspondence Archive 
 
Enjoy! 
 
Pleasant reading!!
My reply to VOSA dated 11th March
Written by abrigatti on 2007-03-20 10:46:22
Well not happy with the latest VOSA's response, I decided to escalate (again!) to the VOSA CEO, Stephen Tetlow: 
 
"You should be fully abreast on the current status of the discussions I have been having with both VOSA and Renault. I am infuriated by VOSA's current stance on this issue. 
 
According to your Code of Practice, a 'Safety Defect is a feature of design or construction liable to cause significant risk of personal injury or death' It expands that cases covered by the Code relate to situations where: 
 
1. evidence indicates the existence of a safety defect in the unit; 
2. the defect appears to be common to a number of units; 
3. units are available for supply in the UK. 
 
Without doubt, points 2 and 3 apply since 1,000 out of 350,000 UK vehicles (Clio Mark-2s) have been affected by this issue; 1,000+ 'life-threatening incidents' have been reported to BBC Watchdog. This alone has proved that an issue exists with the overall 'functionality' of the safety mechanism, which should be 'designed' to work in ALL scenarios. Judged by these factors lone, the devices are not fit for purpose. 
 
I am questioning VOSA's commitment and the investigation undertaken to provide evidence that a safety defect exists. Your earlier correspondence implies that your aim was in fact to prove the opposite; you accepted the opinions of Renault's engineers whose scope of exercise was to prove that a defect does not exist
 
Your Good Vehicles Director, Mr Hugh Edwards, indicated that VOSA 'will continue working with Renault to monitor the situation'; it would be far more appropriate if you were to work with us, the general public at risk whom you have been installed to protect, and independently of Renault towards proving that these many incidents are representative of an identifiable recurring device failure. 
 
I will elaborate on this point. VOSA and Renault have stated that the safety catch did not necessarily engage in ALL cases. This admission is substantial enough to justify VOSA requiring a committed, full and impartial investigation. 
 
It has also been documented that some failed devices were found, on inspection, to have been in the 'unreleased position'. Renault and VOSA's assertion that these were functional before the incidents or that they were able to be reshaped into a satisfactorily functional state, proves nothing other than that they sometimes work and sometimes they do not. It has never been contended that they never work, but it has been claimed that they too-frequently fail. I assume that you accept that the engineer was competent enough to make them work. 
 
VOSA indicated that the safety catch was not engaged due to lack of maintenance - but Renault noted that 'the process [of closing the bonnet] is self-perpetuating, so it does not reply on any particular level of maintenance'. Further to this, Renault indicated that 'there was no reason that they [catches] should not have been effective and engaged at all times, providing that the bonnet had been closed and checked correctly'. If they could not perceive a reason why they were not found to be engaged, then, inversely, they are confirming that they were disengaged but cannot understand why; and VOSA accepts this? 
 
Your statement stated that lack of maintenance had caused the safety catch to remain in the released position. This contradicts Renault's position where maintenance is not seen as an issue; if maintenance were an issue, they would have highlighted it in the owner's handbook as they do for other essentials, such as tyre pressure, brake fluid level, etc. Failure to highlight these makes the catches vulnerable and Renault liable. 
 
I have explained to Mr Edwards, that there are only four logical states that could occur for the two independent catch-mechanisms. VOSA and Renault have not countered, with scientific or technical evidence, any of my points relating to the various states. Each state would signify a potential issue with either the main or safety catch mechanism: 
 
     
  • If both devices were to be left disengaged, the aerofoil shape and the head-wind would cause the bonnet to lift at very low speeds, in front of the driver who would be automatically compelled to stop immediately to prevent any further incident or damage. This scenario can be discounted out of hand. 
  • If the main latch were to be left disengaged, with the safety engaged, there would be substantial rattle as the bonnet attempts to lift but is retailed forcibly by the safety catch. This too can be discounted because 1,000+ Clio drivers cannot all be imbecilic enough to drive at 
    speed with the noise and knocking that this would cause. 
  • If the main latch is engaged, but the safety catch is not, it is a question of 'What does it take to disengage the main latch?', since the safety, which is designed to self-engage at all times, would have become useless. It is worthwhile saying, that there is a potential for the main catch to only be partly engaged, but the driver has no means of knowing if this were to be the case. 
  • If both latches are engaged as they should be, what does it take to cause both to release simultaneously? Once possibly bad-luck, but over 1,000+ times? 
 
 
I have already countered any suggestions that the bonnet “was not closed properly” with clarity on my actions undertaken FOUR weeks prior to the incident. In Renault's view, I would have had to be driving the vehicle without any of the bonnet catches engaged - this is utter nonsense and technically not feasible for this period of time. 
 
Your VSB department has already shown its lack of commitment. Following my reported case in April 2006, the VSB has informed third parties that the case is closed an no further cases would be looked into; this explains why you are documented to have stated that only two cases have ever been reported to you. Official statements contradict this point. 
 
The force of 'two people' tugging, after it [the bonnet] has been reshaped into a functional state, doesn't disprobe that a bonnet could still release itself whilst in motion. This is hardly a scientific test and only goes to prove that the owner's check when closing the bonnet are likely to reveal nothing adverse, like in my case. 
 
My Edward's view that this is the responsibility of Renault to resolve is not acceptable. The MOT statistics quoted by VOSA is unrepresentative because MOT tests would have been undertaken at one given point in time, before any occurrence; in additional, they are cursory, at best, and only undertaken for vehicles over the 3 year threshold, not applicable in my case. 
 
VOSA should not accept any evidence of reports from Renault as accurate; their engineers' mission is to prove that no fault exists. If VOSA accepts what Renault would have us all ot believe, VOSA's independence of thought comes into question. 
 
In short, your organisation's verdibility as come into question, you have quoted contradictory information throughout your investigations, and have replyed, and are still replying, on what Renault dictates. 
 
Issues do exist and it is your responsibility to identify them to enable Renault to act responsibly and address them."
 
 
Well not sure what response I will get with this, as totally slated VOSA as a Safety organisation, as well as their inability to complete a thorought and impartial investigation. We will see.  
 
Maybe I won't get a response? Who knows? 
 
10 Downing Street - Petition
Written by Guest on 2007-03-26 10:03:25
You might be interested to hear that a Petition has started on the PMs website: 
 
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/FaultyClioBonnet/ 
 
Ensure you are able to get as many people to sign-up the petition as you can! 
 
Thanks.
Well no reply from VOSA
Written by abrigatti on 2007-04-09 18:09:57
A null reply from VOSA - just shows how much they care about safety hey? 
 
Grrrr....right off to write another letter to Mr VOSA-CEO!

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