Car safety recall 'needs overhaul'
The UK's car safety recall system needs a complete overhaul, Which? Car magazine said.
The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) which administers the system is "a toothless organisation", Which? Car said.
While VOSA's American equivalent the National Highway Traffic System Administration (NHTSA) had instigated 118 recalls in 2010, VOSA had instigated none, said Which? Car.
The magazine said the UK system, which allows carmakers to determine when recalls are necessary, needs to be brought into line with that of the US and added that it aims to meet VOSA to discuss the matter.
Which? Car said it had found evidence of cars being recalled in the US, but not the UK. For example, in 2005 Volvo USA recalled V70 models made between 1999 and 2002 to fix a throttle fault that caused a sudden massive reduction in power steering, braking assistance and engine power, while Volvo UK did not.
Which? Car said Volvo UK declined to respond to the magazine but an official response to the problem issued in 2008 cited emission rules, not safety, as the cause of the US recall - and that UK emission rules were different.
The magazine also cited non-recalls in the UK of Vauxhall Merivas with intermittent loss of power steering, and BMW Minis with similar power steering issues. It said both manufacturers had said these were not safety problems so did not warrant recalls.
Which? Car said that a sudden change to the way a car drives - even if it remains within legal limits - was clearly a safety issue, and editor Richard Headland added: "VOSA is a toothless organisation that appears to pander to the car industry. We believe it is providing a sub-standard level of protection to British motorists. In contrast, America's NHTSA leads the way as an example of how a safety recall organisation should operate."
VOSA operations director Alex Fiddes said: "Our priority is protecting road users in Britain and our vehicle recall system operates swiftly and effectively, contributing to Britain having some of the safest roads in the world.
"If a manufacturer is unwilling or unable to issue a recall then VOSA would directly inform vehicle owners. However, this has not been necessary as manufacturers have always acted in accordance with the advice we have given."