Renault puts brakes on 'faulty' cruise control claims

21st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 19 (AFP) - Faced with claims that speed control devices fitted to some of its models can jam and leave drivers unable to slow down or stop, the French automobile maker Renault was mounting a public relations counter-attack exercise in its home market at the weekend.

PARIS, March 19 (AFP) - Faced with claims that speed control devices fitted to some of its models can jam and leave drivers unable to slow down or stop, the French automobile maker Renault was mounting a public relations counter-attack exercise in its home market at the weekend.

Controversy over the "cruise control" systems that are being fitted to many French cars - and which are becoming popular as a way of ensuring compliance with increasingly tough speed limits - emerged last November, when a driver of a Renault car claimed he had been forced to drive for a long distance at high speed because he could not slow down.

Following prominent TV coverage of that reported incident, and a series of other accusations, Renault has scrambled to carry out studies to check the devices, while also suggesting that maybe some drivers do not understand how to use them properly.

On Friday the company said it had had 35 experts studying all aspects of the cruise control systems since the first allegation surfaced, and they had so far found no faults.

It all started when the driver of an up-market Renault Vel Satis saloon claimed that his vehicle had taken him on a perilous 150-kilometre (95-mile) dash down a highway south of Paris with the cruise control jammed at nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) per hour.

After that incident attracted national publicity, Renault carried out an initial test of the vehicle, and then brought a lawsuit against its owner. At an initial hearing the judge ordered an independent study of the car, which is due to be published in April.

There have been a number of other allegations of a similar nature, most but not all of them involving Renaults.

Police in the northwestern town of Rouen said on Tuesday that the driver of a Renault Laguna had been unable to either brake, accelerate or disengage the clutch over a distance of some 40 kilometres (25 miles), and a driver in the southwest of the country reported on Thursday that she had had a minor accident due to a faulty speed regulator.

On Friday a dealer in Audi cars - manufactured not by Renault but by its German competitor Volkswagen - said a reported incident involving one of his cars in northern France was simply due to the driver's inability to correctly use the speed control device. He added however that the company would subject the car to an independent check-up.

In its statement, Renault said it would be writing to all owners of its cars fitted with the devices to explain how to use them correctly, and also invited customers to drop in to its showrooms over the weekend if they needed any help.

"The only identified cause of possible failures result from (drivers) failing to correctly distinguish between pedals in certain situations," the company said, referring to people mixing up the clutch and the brake pedal when needing to change speed.

Referring to thousands of kilometres (miles) driven by its experts to test the devices, it prudently concluded that "the cruise control device did not show any failures in the configurations analysed."

The devices have become popular in the past two years, since France introduced a network of automatic speed cameras on its major highways, and courts began cracking down on offenders.

Drivers use them to block their speed at the legal limit, thereby hoping to avoid being caught out and fined.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article