Safety, qual­ity stands out


CARS have never been safer or of bet­ter qual­ity, de­spite re­cent vol­un­tary re­calls for 20,000 Toy­otas.

Over the past decade, there has been an av­er­age of about 145 re­calls a year for ve­hi­cles and parts, with 138 last year.

So far this year, there have only been 46, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port, which mon­i­tors re­calls for the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion.

The low­est num­ber of re­calls on record is 18, in 1986.

But a de­part­men­tal spokesman says this does not mean cars were safer in the ’80s.

In­stead, he says man­u­fac­tur­ers are now more re­spon­sive to cus­tomer com­plaints.

‘‘Re­call ac­tion by a ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer does not nec­es­sar­ily in­di­cate that the prod­uct is de­fec­tive,’’ he says.

‘‘Many re­calls are for in­spec­tion only and so they are pre­cau­tion­ary in na­ture.

‘‘It would be un­de­sir­able if ve­hi­cle re­call cam­paigns were seen in a neg­a­tive light. Re­calls should be viewed as man­u­fac­tur­ers do­ing the right thing and re­spond­ing to is­sues that have emerged since ve­hi­cles went to mar­ket.’’

Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Toy­ota have the most re­calls with three each this year fol­lowed by Audi, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Peu­geot, Porsche and Suzuki with two. Fiat, Jaguar, Re­nault and Subaru have none.

Re­calls range from se­ri­ous prob­lems such as fuel leaks that could cause ve­hi­cles to ex­plode, to a re­cent re­call by Audi for a faulty glass sun­roof in its Q5 that could shat­ter un­der mi­nus-20C tem­per­a­tures, even though such tem­per­a­tures are rare in Aus­tralia.

Safety re­calls in Aus­tralia are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the man­u­fac­turer or im­porter, not the gov­ern­ment.

The de­part­men­tal spokesman says man­u­fac­tur­ers al­ways ‘‘con­sider their re­call obli­ga­tions se­ri­ously and un­der­take the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion to com­ply with leg­isla­tive re­quire­ments’’.

‘‘Ac­cord­ingly, there has never been a manda­tory re­call for ve­hi­cles of Aus­tralia,’’ he says.

Ve­hi­cle safety stan­dards have im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent decades with the lat­est Monash Univer­sity Ac­ci­dent Re­search Cen­tre’s study re­search of real world ac­ci­dents in Aus­tralia and New Zealand find­ing 29 ve­hi­cles scored top safety rat­ings.

This com­pares with 19 last year and none in the first sur­vey 20 years ago.

Safety stan­dards have also been raised in re­cent years by the in­tro­duc­tion of ma­jor new reg­u­la­tory stan­dards, the de­part­men­tal spokesman says.

These in­clude: Aus­tralian De­sign Rules for dy­namic side im­pact occu- pant pro­tec­tion in 1999 and off­set frontal im­pact oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion in 2000; the pro­mo­tion of ‘‘crash­wor­thi­ness’’ and ad­vanced safety fea­tures through the Aus­tralasian New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram and the state auto clubs’ Used Car Safety Rat­ings; and the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment man­date for elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol for new model pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles last year.


Man­u­fac­tur­ers are now more re­spon­sive to cus­tomer com­plaints

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