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Chery crash-test comment raises ANCAP ire

Seat of the issue: ANCAP says a recall to replace the front seat backrests of Chery’s J1 would not result in the car earning an extra star if re-tested.

ANCAP hits out at Chery’s claim that recall could earn four-star crash rating for J1

8 Aug 2011

VEHICLE safety authority ANCAP has criticised Chinese car brand Chery for claiming a recall to replace the front seat backrests of its J1 light car would be enough to improve its crash safety rating from three stars to four.

Importer Ateco Automotive’s Chery spokesman Daniel Cotterill last week told GoAuto that private testing of the car fitted with redesigned backrests led the company to believe the J1 – which scored 16.97 out of a possible 37 – would “probably get four stars” were ANCAP to re-test it.

In response, ANCAP chairman Lauchlan McIntosh dismissed Mr Cotterill’s comment as incorrect.

“The modifications would not impact the overall crash test result, and the Ateco engineering staff should be aware of this,” he said.

“The Chery J1 performed poorly in the crash tests – the passenger compartment lost structural integrity in the frontal impact test, providing limited protection from serious chest injury for the driver.

“We are disappointed at (Chery’s) comments, particularly given ANCAP works closely with the automotive industry to deliver safer vehicles for Australian motorists.” All 702 examples of the Chinese-built J1 brought into Australia so far – including vehicles sold, dealer and importer stock – are being recalled to have the backrests of their front seats replaced with redesigned components.

Mr Cotterill told GoAuto the seat redesign was “done in light of the ANCAP crash testing that was done here, where we got a three-star result”.

The ACCC recall website describes the J1’s defect as being an “internal non-conformity of both front seat backrests” and that “under certain operating conditions, the integrity of the seat frame structure may be compromised”.

Mr McIntosh clarified that ANCAP testing had uncovered an issue “concerning the design and integrity of the seats in the Chery J1”, leading Chery to voluntarily issue the recall.

ANCAP told GoAuto the J1 would not be re-tested, meaning its three-star rating will remain until at least the model’s next significant revision.

Mr Cotterill confirmed to GoAuto that ANCAP had also written to him.

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“ANCAP wrote to me saying they were disappointed in my public comments and significantly that it (the J1) would almost certainly get a four-star rating and they stated that was simply not the case.

“They said that I should have been aware of this, which makes my public statements rather curious as to motive.” Mr Cotterill said his comments were based on a test conducted at the Autoliv crash lab in Melbourne on July 18, in which it “significantly improved the score for the side impact test”.

The test was conducted on a J1 which had been modified by Chery following its three-star result from ANCAP.

“We had a recall recently and it was a car that had had that work done to it. In fact, that test was to certify that modification.” Mr Cotterill said that after the test the various technical people from Ateco and the crash lab commented that it was a pity that the modification had not been done before the ANCAP test “because it probably would have got four stars”.

“I took that information as the basis for my comment (to GoAuto). I made that comment on the basis of the views of the various technical people who were there and in subsequent discussion with various technical people at Ateco.

“Quite clearly that has upset our friends at ANCAP which is not something I set out to do, although as a PR guy I put my employer, my client, in the best light reasonably possible.

“Now, apprised of their sensitivity I might phrase that a little differently and the way that I am phrasing it is that I am confident the J1 has been significantly improved by these modifications and that confidence is based on independently conducted crash test results.

“As for star ratings, that is a matter for ANCAP.” Mr Cotterill told GoAuto that ANCAP tests were important for the Chinese brands Ateco represents because Chinese engineers who witness the tests see for themselves what is required for the Australian market.

“We acknowledge the work that is done by ANCAP. No-one was happy with the result of the test (on the J1) and work was undertaken to improve it. And the result was positive.” Chery J1 owners will be contacted by letter and advised to contact their dealer to arrange for the replacement of their front seat backrests. The procedure will involve the removal of both front seats and re-fitting using new mounting bolts.

As GoAuto reported at the time of the J1’s ANCAP test, the crash-testing organisation, which advises against purchasing cars with a crash test rating lower than four stars, also expressed concern about the vehicle’s lack of electronic stability control – an issue Ateco said it will also address.

A state law mandating ESC from January 1 this year has kept the J1 and its J11 SUV stablemate out of Victorian showrooms since launch.

In December 2009, Ateco – which pioneered Chinese vehicles on the Australian market – also recalled its V240 twin-cab ute after its ANCAP test revealed a potential seatbelt problem.

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