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Airbags: Renault clears air

2006-07-05 14:47

Leo Kok

Johannesburg - Yes, the airbags deployed, but it was because they had to.

That, in short, is Renault South Africa's official response to the widely publicised accident in which a woman claimed that she crashed after the airbags on her Renault Megane II deployed without warning.

This drama hit the headlines in May when Sally Mulder of Boksburg alleged that the airbags on her Megane exploded while she was driving and caused her to veer of the road and into a ditch.

What caused the uproar was not the fact that she was stuck in the wreck of the car for seven hours, but because she had her car at the dealer to check a nagging airbag warning light only days before.

"You can understand that the impact on our image in the market was severe," says Roland Bouchara, head of Renault SA.

"That is one of the reasons that the investigation took so long - we wanted to involve all the relevant parties as well as experts from Renault in France. We wanted to be exactly sure."

In-depth probe

Renault commissioned a high-level team from its head office in Paris to investigate the matter. They also included the vehicle's insurer, Mulder's family and Autoliv, the manufacturer of the airbag control unit, in the investigation.

Analysis from the car's onboard computer, as well as from the airbag's own internal control unit, shows that the airbags deployed after the seatbelt pre-tensioners kicked in and only after impact.

According to detailed information this all happened milliseconds after the car was in a head-on collision.

It was found that the frontal impact Mulder had, was when her car hit a ditch and that was followed by a side-impact after the car rolled.

The investigation also revealed that the airbag warning light was not on before the accident and that the dealer did reset it just days before.

According to Renault they also spoke to Mulder at length about the accident and that she couldn't remember what happened before or during the accident.

The accident received a lot of media attention, which lead to a flood of general complaints about Renault's after-sales service.

Bouchara said these complaints has been dealt with . He also claimed that in terms of Renault's sales volume the percentage of complaints is on par with other major carmakers.

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