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Written by Aaron Brigatti  
Tuesday, 03 July 2007
Here's the letter I received from Stephen Tetlow - the CEO of the VOSA organisation.

"Dear Mr Soames,

Thank you for your letter of 1st May on behalf of your constituent Aaron Brigatti, [address removed], about the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA) investigation of Renault Clio II bonnet and safety catches. I am sorr for the extended time it has taken to respond.

I have reviewed the investigation undertaken by my Vehicle Safety Branch (VSB) over the last 12 months. I can confirm that it has been robus and that without our remit, under the Code of Practice on Vehicle Safety Defects, the decision not to impose a safety recall was correct.

In April 2007, Renault UK began contacting circa 500,000 1998-2007 Renault Clio II Phase 1, Phase II and Clio II Campus customers to invite them to their local dealership to have the bonnet and safety catch components checked and, if necessary, serviced or replaced free of charge.

Unfortunately, I did not receive Mr Brigatti's earlier e-mails. We believe the e-mail address he used was incomplete. For further reference our email contact details are: [blah].

However, Mr Brigatti has been kept informed of the investigation progress through correspondence with my VSB and Hugh Edwards, Director of Goods Vehicles. It maybe easier to discuss questions and theories face-to-face. Jeff Sweeting, Head of VSB, would be happy to meet with Mr Brigatti and can be contacted on [blah].

I trust this addresses your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Tetlow"

My comments below:

  1. The VSB investigation has not lasted "12 months" as implied - they received my filed case in April 2006, and only reviewed my report (and that of another "victim" (see second point regarding my comments on this)) and inspected 3 other unaffected vehicles in April 2006 - and submitted a conclusion response to me in January 2007. Firstly, to be correct this is not 12 months, and secondly it would appear that they made their decision within the first few months of the investigation, as I have received indication that in October and November 2006, the VSB declined to file or respond to any further cases filed to it - why? Is this a "complete" investigation? If anything, this should obtain details from ANY incidents that occurred related to the "sudden bonnet release syndrome" or see any commonality in the part mechanism / performance. Reviewing two REPORTS and spot-checking 3 undamaged cars is not a (thorough) investigation!
  2. Regarding the "second report" they reviewed. Under a FoI request, this report has not come to light - therefore I am questioning it's existence. At this stage, there is nothing that indicates a second report was reviewed. Also reviewing two "reports" completed by the garage / manufacture in question does raise the question of their reliability and independence. I reiterate that the VSB investigation was based solely on these two reports!
  3. The VOSA Code of Practice indicates that a defect has to appear on a "common number of units", which are "available in the UK" - and with "evidence that a safety defect exists in the affected unit". 1,000+ cases in the UK alone covers the initial points. I would question how they have come to the conclusion that there is no evidence indicating that a "safety defect" exists in the related part. Note: that the part in question that keeps a bonnet secure - is a two-part bonnet catch mechanism - which incorporates a safety catch. My understanding is safety relates to anything that endangers the life of the occupants or those that are around the vehicle. This is a very basic viewpoint of what I deem as "safety". Quoting verbatim your policy - a safety defect is "a feature of design or construction liable to cause a significant risk of personal injury or death" - ....I questioned to VOSA to confirm which bit doesn't apply in the Renault Case? And confirm to me the VOSA/VSB definition of a safety defect as apparently they are contradicting their own policies here?
  4. Please consider this - a bonnet catch failure that removes ALL visibility for the driver - resulting in potentially a fatal "life-threatening" RTA (endangering lives!) - is what we would deem as a evidence of a potential safety defect (many people in the industry agrees to this very point!).
  5. To bring them closer to a similar scenario, the VSB deemed a previous Alfa Romeo 147 & 156 "bonnet catch failure" as a safety defect - resulting in a manufacturer's recall of the affected vehicles. What makes the Renault case different?
  6. They were correct in that Renault have "invited" owners of the affected vehicles for a free safety inspection (12+mths after early reports) - however, this doesn't address the root-cause of why it happened (maintenance is one small aspect of a bigger issue - which is likely to re-occur in the future - and cases continue to be reported!) - but importantly, comes too late relating to the 1,000+ cases (where people have had to claim via their insurance). It's a matter of a gesture which is "too little, too late", and still fails far short from a total UK and, in theory, a global recall. This was only due to the persistence of members of the public, like myself, and the media. If it weren't for us, Renault would have sweep this matter under the carpet - like they initially tried to do for all reported cases filed to them. This is not a "unique" incident as they implied.

What are the results of these points?

Well we are potentially questioning the role of VOSA, the VSB and the ambiguity and interpretation of their own policies - if they can easily contradict these - the vehicle manufacturer would be in a clear position to do the exact same thing! This should not happen.

Apparently, the organisation does not have any powers to force a recall (more of an advisory role!?) nor deal with these matters independently - i.e. they become reliant on anything that the manufacture advises / communicates to them - and they accept their findings in such cases. Is this a role of a safety agency - one that I believe was meant to be impartial?

More news to follow...and hopefully I will schedule this "meeting" at some point soon - depends on my work commitments etc...

Looks like an end of July meeting now!
Written by abrigatti on 2007-07-07 22:09:21
Looks like the VSB chap at VOSA is out for a fortnight - something about a "holiday" :p  
Okay, so will schedule once he returns - now likely to be the end of July or early August!

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