A Renault Clio owner whose bonnet smashed into the windscreen of her car has started an online petition calling for an investigation into how safety recalls operate.
Michelle McGinley is calling for an independent committee of MPs to look into how the Government's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) works in cases like that of the Mark II Clio.
Many owners like Miss McGinley have reported that the bonnet of the Clio can open while on the move and flip back onto the windscreen, smashing the glass and, in some cases, bending the front pillars and roof.
Renault said the problem was a maintenance issue with the bonnet catch rather than a safety defect, so it wouldn't recall cars. However, it did offer every owner free checks and service on the part.
Miss McGinley believes VOSA should have used statutory powers to force Renault to alert owners to the problem when it discovered the issue in April 2006.
Instead, owners were alerted to the problem in March 2007 after it was highlighted on BBC's 'Watchdog' programme.
Miss McGinley says: 'I feel that this way of working is not independent and is certainly not common practice for other enforcement agencies, because it is so open to manipulation by manufacturers.'
If you'd like to add your name to Miss McGinley's petition, paste this link into your browser: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/VOSAactivities/
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: 'A thorough investigation was carried out by VOSA in collaboration with Renault to establish whether there was a design or construction defect that would render the vehicle unsafe, as defined by the UK Code of Practice on Vehicle Safety Defects.
'Had a safety defect been identified, a recall of the vehicles could have been instigated
under the Code of Practice, but the investigation indicated that the most likely cause of the incidents was a combination of inadequate maintenance and incorrect closure of the bonnet.'
'It is the owners responsibility to ensure adequate maintenance, but given the apparent risk and the level of public concern, VOSA's Vehicle Safety Branch strongly recommended that Renault should take follow-up action with their customers. Renault agreed and started contacting around half a million owners of 1998-2007 Renault Clios in April 2007.'
Further criticism rebuffed
Countering criticism that it didn't use its statutory powers to force Renault to effect a recall, VOSA said 'It would be impossible to investigate matters where detailed technical issues are involved without the co-operation of the manufacturer'.
It also faced criticism about the amount of time it took to encourage Renault to look into the problem. 'In all cases like this,' its Vosa spokesman replied, 'it can take some time before sufficient evidence becomes available that there is a real problem - and to determine what is causing it.
'VOSA - and many other road safety authorities throughout the EU - receive many complaints about potential problems, but only a proportion of these turn out to be valid.
When asked whether its independence was compromised by car manufacturers, it was adamant that this was not the case. 'VOSA acts independently when making its determination about the facts,' it said.
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