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Former Renault manager accuses carmaker of failure to act on safety issue

Renault has been accused by a former employee of deliberately downplaying a design fault that causes the bonnet of some of its cars to open while being driven.

Interviewed on BBC 's Watchdog broadcast last night, Graeme Holt, the company's former PR manager, said he left Renault because of the way it had failed to address the problem.

‘I think it's been disgraceful quite frankly. It doesn't get more serious than putting your customers' lives in danger,’ he said on the programme.

Watchdog first revealed the problem with the bonnet of the mark II version of the Renault Clio last April.

Since then, the BBC has heard of more than 1,000 cases of bonnets suddenly opening while on the road. Many cars have been written off, but so far there have been no fatalities.

Renault has always denied this is a safety issue and blamed accidents on customers failing to properly close and maintain their bonnet.

When contacted by us Renault said a joint investigation with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency concluded that the bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II has ‘no design or construction defect’.

Renault said the problem was due to ‘poor maintenance’. It refused to comment on what ‘poor maintenance’ was, or how many Clios were affected in the UK.

'We have closely monitored and analysed every case we have received, and a dedicated task force of Renault’s worldwide experts has investigated this issue, including carrying out vehicle inspections. We also kept VOSA fully updated throughout,' said a Renault spokesperson. Renault has issued a statement on the matter. It can be read in full below.

But Graeme Holt, who worked at the company for 12 years, says that's not true. He says Renault themselves quickly established that the cause of the problem is a part that can corrode over time.

‘I absolutely think this a design fault,' he told Watchdog, "because it's only something that affects this particular car.’

Up to half a million Clio IIs – maufactured between 1998 and 2005 – are thought to be on the road.

  • To read Renault's response to the allegations please click on the next page. #AM_ART_SPLIT# Earlier this month Renault began writing to owners of the affected model suggesting they visit a Renault dealer to check their bonnet catch was being maintained properly.

    This week, David Burrowes MP, chair of the Government's Road Safety Group, tabled a motion in the House of Commons urging further action.

    The Clio II is still on sale, rebranded as the Clio Campus. It has the same bonnet catch.

  • Renault’s statement:

    Renault UK is a responsible manufacturer and prides itself on safety with more five-star Euro NCAP rated cars than any other manufacturer. The safety of its customers is of paramount importance to Renault UK.

    Without question, Renault conforms to all strict legal procedures outlined for the motor industry. This includes incidents of drivers reporting that the bonnet of their Clio II has opened whilst the car was being driven.

    Renault has liaised fully with the UK government enforcement agency, the Vehicle and Operator Service Agency (VOSA), on the issue and both Renault and VOSA have concluded that the bonnet catch mechanism on the Clio II has no design or construction defect.

    Since Watchdog’s original broadcast, Renault has monitored and analysed every case we have received and a dedicated Task Force of more than 30 of Renault’s worldwide experts has investigated this issue, including carrying out vehicle inspections. VOSA has been kept fully informed throughout.

    In co-operation with the relevant authorities including the DVLA, Renault is writing to all Clio II owners, more than 400,000 people, inviting them into their nearest Renault dealership, where the opening and closing mechanisms of the bonnet will be checked to ensure the correct maintenance is being undertaken. If poor maintenance is detected, the appropriate corrective action will be carried out at no cost to the customer as a gesture of goodwill.

    Renault refutes BBC Watchdog claim that it is ‘putting lives at risk’

    Renault has found no construction or design defect with the bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II. Renault is a responsible manufacturer. To say we would endanger our customers is categorically untrue. We are recalling all Clio II owners into the Renault network as part of our reassurance plan.

    The bonnet catch mechanism of the Clio II is safe, reliable and fit for purpose providing the vehicle is maintained correctly and the bonnet is closed as prescribed.

    This issue is a maintenance issue.

    Renault refutes BBC Watchdog’s whistleblower ‘cover-up’ claim

    There is no ‘cover-up’. Renault always takes any customer complaint extremely seriously and we have escalated reports of this issue to the highest level within Renault. The fact that we are writing to all Clio II owners demonstrates how seriously Renault takes any customer issue and illustrates our openness with the customers.

    Renault is sorry that Graeme Holt, former Press Relations Manager, Renault UK, has issues with the company. However Renault’s priority remains its customers and communicating with them.

    Renault refutes claims that issue due to a design fault

    There is no design fault with the bonnet catch mechanism on the Clio II. Graeme Holt has no accredited technical expertise with which to make such a claim.

    This issue is a maintenance issue pure and simple. In its investigations, Renault discovered several cases of poor maintenance where the bonnet had opened whilst the car was being driven.

    Immediately following Watchdog’s original broadcast, Renault UK instructed its dealers to check the bonnet catch mechanism on Clio II free-of-charge for customers and we have now formalised this by adding a check to the service schedule.

    A check of the bonnet catch mechanism is already included in the annual MOT test required for vehicles more than three years old.

    Clio Campus

    There are no reports of this issue on Clio Campus. Renault dealers have been provided with correct maintenance instructions for this vehicle and it will be applied to all Renault vehicles, including Clio Campus as reassuring our customers is Renault’s priority.

  • Renault video

    Tim Jackson, UK press and public relations' director, speaks about Renault's investigations into the bonnet faults.

    To view click here.

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