THE motoring public presumably must be on their toes now because of certain areas of concern over their safety when driving their cars.
Reports of certain car companies having no stock of replacement parts to correct the defective airbags in their fleet have caused a certain degree of distress and also anger among car owners.
It looks like Malaysians are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to these airbags – damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
What advice do we give drivers with faulty airbags? Some say make sure no one sits on the passenger seat next to the driver! But what about the driver? Should he or she wear protective gear like a helmet and bullet-proof vest?
The Malaysian Association of Standards Users monitors consumer product recalls and complaints, and those related to passenger cars never fail to overwhelm us.
We receive several thousand complaints on cars annually, potentially incurring losses totalling millions of ringgit to the consumers. These complaints are received by the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC).
Most complaints are related to new cars not performing as intended, and the companies and service centres alike failing to rectify these problems. In addition to poor quality of service, consumers in Malaysia also complain about putting up with unsafe vehicles that are not taken off the road as soon as possible.
Standards Users is utterly disappointed with both regulators and car manufacturers over the failure to protect the general public from unsafe vehicles. We want to know which authority in Malaysia is responsible for enforcing laws that guarantee only safe vehicles are placed on the roads and who the public can call when there are safety-related recalls so that their problems can be fixed promptly.
Go to some of the automobile websites and you will find safety alerts buried under promotional information. Recalls are rarely called recalls. They are called service campaigns or product updates in some websites.
There are international guidelines already available to manage effective recalls. If the same car manufacturers can describe recalls as recalls in the United States, Europe or Singapore, why are they called anything but in Malaysia?
Are Malaysians who have to give an arm and a leg to own cars not qualified to get products which are safe and perform as intended?
Standards Users and consumer organisations are not regulators but we have gone to great lengths to bring the issues and problems related to car safety to the attention of the relevant authorities and car manufacturers. We hope the general public will collectively take action to send a strong message to brand owners that safety of Malaysian drivers is top priority if their brands are to thrive in Malaysia.
We have collectively taken such measures in the not-so-distant past with one car brand that had gear problems, and a telecommunication service provider for their poor service plans.
Taking collective action is one of the five universal responsibilities of consumers globally, and getting safe products is one of the eight universal rights of consumers. Businesses must respect these rights.
PROF DATUK DR MARIMUTHU NADASON
Malaysian Association of Standards Users