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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Sunday, 20 June 2010

Probably the last chance I get to get the Department of Transport to resolve my query in relation to the infamous Bonnet failure affecting the Renault Clio Mark-2 models. Here goes...

The outputs I am expecting is for a investigation (judicial review) of the performance and the way in which VOSA acted throughout the case, and why a formal recall was not instructed to the manufacturer and enforced by VOSA.

I sent this to a MP to request this review, so might as well address it to the department head, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP.

Dear Mr Hammond,

Further to my recent correspondence to the DoT, VOSA and your Ministerial colleagues in relation to the infamous Renault Clio Mark-2 Bonnet catch failures, this matter still has not been fully resolved to fully mitigate the safety risk to the UK (and Europe) roads.

Several thousand motorists have experienced this safety failure, and this number continues to grow. This is a significant volume of motorists for something that was originally classed as a “unique” case. It remains life-threatening; VOSA have admitted that they had to rely on the manufacture to drive the investigation, due to a lack of expertise. This is the context of VOSA’s impartial investigation.

VOSA has not inspected any “damaged” vehicles. Renault inspected my vehicle and reported that the catches were not broken. The principle here is that because a catch is not broken doesn’t mean that it functioned correctly. If a catch is stuck “open” then this means the core functionality of the safety mechanism has failed. This cannot and should not be permitted as part of a safety catch mechanism functionality, it calls into question its design and safety context.

This matters requires a Judicial Review, hence this letter to you as the Secretary of State for Transport.

By basis of the request is as follows:

  • My case originally occurred in March 2006, and in April became part of the BBC Watchdog program, where reports exceeding 2,000 were reported – I think the true amount is significantly greater – as through various mediums, cases continue to be reported as of today.
  • Renault completed their inspection on my vehicle in April 2006, upon my request.
  • VOSA commenced their investigation after I field a case to them in April 2006, and advised that they would complete an impartial investigation in conjunction with the manufacturer.
  • VOSA admitted that they did not have any technical expertises, and had to rely on the manufacture to supply the knowledge and investigation input. Is still impartial?
  • VOSA compiled a report (on 3 non-damaged vehicle spot-checks) but could not issue report this to me, as it was a Renault owned-investigation. Renault did not agree to share their report into my vehicle inspection to me or the public.
  • I requested a FoI request, and obtained copies of both report from VOSA.
  • VOSA have admitted that they have not inspected any vehicles were the bonnet catch has failed, and advised that any other inspections would not be documented. If fact, numerous processes have not been documented; meetings, inspections and any new cases filed.
  • The reports advised that the catch mechanism were not broken, but were functioning and required maintenance.
  • The issue is that the design and manufacturing specification were to treat the mechanism as “maintenance-free”. With this notion, this means that the functionality HAS failed, as the mechanism were prone to stuck in the open position or not engage fully. A complete failure in the original functionality and performance of the safety catch mechanism.
  • Through ongoing discussions with VOSA, this point was repeatedly raised for VOSA to consider, where a functionality and design / construction specification change has occurred.
  • I appreciate that maintenance is not part of the “Code of Practice of Safety Defects”, but this can only be the case when maintenance was a necessary requirement of a noted mechanism. In the case of the bonnet catch, they were maintenance-free, so maintenance cannot be used as a reason for “failure” without admitting that it has become a safety defect.
  • This means that a fault exists in the functionality of the mechanism, specifically the safety catch. It is not safe and fails its function; therefore it is defective.
  • VOSA reluctantly advised Renault to send two letters of invitation, in 2007 and 2008. However, these were not raised as part of the formal Recall system, including entering this into the EU RAPEX system. This is a significant process failure by VOSA.
  • There are potential fatalities linked to the bonnet catch failures, one in South Africa and two RTAs in the UK, VOSA were notified of this but did not investigate further.
  • VOSA confirmed that they would continue to monitor the situation based on any new evidence provided to it. However, any subsequent cases filed to it are not investigated, with the standard “no case to answer” response. This has been the case since 2006.
  • Renault have asserted that all cases are either down to lack of maintenance (which was Renault’s responsibility until the invitation letters were sent to the owner base) or the bonnet was not closed as prescribed (which is incorrect, as an owner cannot tell if the safety mechanism is fully engaged when the main catch is engaged (bonnet is flush)).

The dangers and safety risk to owners and the other road users are real and tangible. Cases continue to happen even after the rudimental notifications sent by Renault. VOSA have not acted in alignment to their Code of Practice of Safety Defects. Renault’s own investigations have indicated that the original “maintenance-free” stance has changed, and thus confirms that a change in the functionality, performance and design of the mechanism was necessary.

Why should owners be liable for something that was actually the manufactures liability, similar to the Toyota safety cases last year? The same principles are here for Renault, and thus the manufacture is fully liable and need to formally recall and resolve the safety risk (replace the parts). VOSA’s failure to drive to this principle means that it renders the agency unfit for purpose and gives the impression that is VOSA does not serve the road safety function that is was intended to govern.

VOSA should have ensured that the manufacture acts more responsibly to recall and replace the mechanism accordingly, and that periodic notifications are sent to the owner base until VOSA are satisfied that the safety risk is resolved.

It is very still shocking to think that I could have been killed by this incident 4 years ago, and I am disheartened to continue to hear cases continue to happen until this day for a known road-safety risk.

I look forward for your response and the appropriate Judicial Review into this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Aaron Brigatti

We'll see what the outcome is...if any! SHould I hold my breathe? Ummm...probably not!!

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