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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Friday, 23 April 2010

Well I couldn't just accept VOSA's last email as their official stand, so decided to rip it to shreds -and make sure that the chaps integrity in front of their Ministry bosses is thrown out of the window!

"Thank you for your letter dated and received on 19th April. 

I don’t think the bonnet catch fundamental mechanism is complex as you seem to imply. Renault has agreed that it is a simple 2-catch mechanism in their previous correspondence to me, so I would question your stance on some of the points you’ve quoted, which seems to contradict the manufactures own opinions on the functionality and closure process for the same mechanism.

  • It is also clear that any “potential” of failure is far from satisfactorily.  To put this into context, DoT / VOSA are therefore stating that it is acceptable for a safety mechanism to fail, and still be deemed safe.  You are trying to justify that 55,000+ bonnet failures for Renault Clio’s is acceptable(1), when it simply should not be the case.  A safety mechanism should not be allowed to fail in its basic function.  The bonnet safety catch primary function is to prevent a bonnet releasing and obscuring the driver’s visibility through the front windscreen.  I disagree with you on your comment; the safety mechanism in the Clio Mk2 has simply failed and the safety catch design is not safe. 

  • Referencing your views on whether this is a defect in accordance to the “Code of Practice(2)” policies.  The number involved with a particular issue/safety defect is actually part of the equation.  The policies quotes definition is that “the defect appears to be common to a number of vehicles”.  I disagree with you on this point too, vehicle volumes do matter.  You are not even able to interpret your own Code of Practice! 

  • “A ‘safety defect’ is a feature of design or construction liable to cause significant risk of personal injury or death.”  Please can you explain why the Clio is not one that causes significant risk of personal injury or death?  I find your position untenably if you think something that could have killed me and the other motorists around me (i.e. could have caused a fatal RTA), is not a safety risk.  What justification do you have to make such an outrageous statement?  I disagree with you on your comment.  Actually, it’s quite insulting for VOSA to continue to try to make such justifications for VOSA’s apparent failure to deal with matter more professionally and honourably.  There is no respect shown to the DoT/VOSA for a matter that could have killed thousands of people.  I guess it is pure luck that deaths have been avoided (unless?), and this has nothing to do with the two “invitations” correspondence sent out by Renault.

  • I do not see “positive guidance” being received from Renault.  Renault has opted to shy away from investigating any cases filed going forward (they only looked into 1 case in 2006).  Renault accused the motorist / owner of causing the incident, which is quite a slanderous statement, only to then advise that it was down to the maintenance (corrosion) of their mechanism (which was Renault’s responsibility and liability).  All in all, if you believe Renault has been honourably in the way they have dealt with this safety risk, then you are quite mistaken.  It was only because of the public pressure (including me and the UK media) on VOSA and Renault, that we ensured you enforced notifications to owners.  VOSA agreed that the process followed was an “informal recall”, but this is not the same as a formal recall no matter how you position in.  A recall is a recall, and by the Code of Practice definition, this particular case should have deemed as a safety recall.  Therefore, I disagree with your comment.  A formal recall should have been followed.

  • I have requested a FoI, and do not need to file a further FoI.   Let me outline what appear to be quite incompetent statements from VOSA’s VSB(3):

    o  “VOSA has undertaken inspections on an additional 3 vehicles, thereby bringing the total to 6 vehicles. The details of these inspections are not documented.
    o  VOSA’s Vehicle Safety Branch have also undertaken 10 (ten) random checks on vehicles which have not been documented. The VSB engineers continue examinations on an adhoc basis in respect of any Renault Clio they encounter, however no contemporaneous notes are made.
    o  A further 2 joint VOSA/Renault vehicles inspections have been undertaken, these details are not documented by VOSA.”

As you need to continue to collate evidence in case a defect is established, this requires all parts of your assessments (part of your wider investigation) to be documented.  This proves that your department’s investigation was not completed effectively and brings your own organisation into disrepute.  How can a department who is responsible for “vehicle safety” perform like this?  This is outrageous and really means your investigation department is not competent to complete any safety investigations at all.  I cannot agree that you have investigated this particular case in accordance to your Code of Practice.  Therefore, I disagree with your comments.

You are inferring that your organisation doesn’t have the ability to complete a thorough or impartial investigation (VOSA has admitted it didn’t have the technical experts); any assessments completed are not necessarily documented and contravene your own Code of Practice.

  • Another quote from your Code of Practice: “Vehicle manufacturers will notify VOSA of the response rate at 3 monthly intervals until the recall action is complete or it is mutually agreed that the campaign be closed as any remaining unactioned vehicles are unlikely to be traced”.  A formal recall would have triggered the continual communications to the owner base (including to any new owners following an ownership exchange).  As you did not invoke this formal recall process, this means neither Renault nor VOSA are continuing to communicate to the customer base.  Since a proportion of the vehicle base has not been checked, we will continue to hear about incidents to continue to happen.  We have evidence that this is the case, so your inactions are proving quite unsustainable.  You quoted that you “will not take any further action”.  How can you make this statement, when incidents continue to occur on the UK roads?  Your department’s role is to prevent these issues re-occurring, and fully mitigate the risk.  More importantly, the manufacture has the duty of care to replace all defective mechanisms to one that can withstand general usage on the UK roads.

We have all lost faith in VOSA’s ability to deal with any safety reports filed to it and I thank you for confirming your inability to deal with the confirmed safety defects.  I can only agree with you one thing, that I am far from satisfied with VOSA’s attitude towards something that could have killed me.

(1) Based on your previous commentary in your 31st March 2010 correspondence that “11% of Clio Mk2s submitted for (MOT) tests failed due to problems with the bonnet catch” with over 500,000 Clios Mk2/Campus models in the UK.
(2) Code of Practice - (maintenance not referenced)
(3) A copy of the FoI is located here: "

I don't think I've been too strong, just the fact I disagree with everything, except one point - that I am far from happy with VOSA's (in)actions!!


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