A total of 1664 Chery J11 compact SUVs have been recalled over the defect, which comes just seven months after it was launched in Australia in February. It is understood approximately 900 vehicles are in the hands of owners, while the rest remain with Chery dealers and other departments of the manufacturer.
The official recall notice on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website explains:
“In the event of a side impact, the vehicle may not perform to the manufacturer's required specifications.“The side impact capabilities of the vehicle may not adequately protect the occupants in the event of an accident.”
Daniel Cotterill from Chery’s Australian distributor, Ateco Automotive, explained the defect was detected by Chery after it conducted its own independent crash tests (not conducted by ANCAP).
Earlier this year, the Chery J1 light car was independently crash tested and recalled as a result, after it was concluded its safety could be improved by amending the construction of the front seatbacks. Following this revelation, Chery Australia decided to put the J11 through similar tests, which found the SUV was susceptible to the same problems as the hatch.
The J11 recall action requires both front seats to be removed from the vehicle and the backrest assembly to be replaced on each one. The notice also says “additional items” will be installed in the centre console and side pillars. Mr Cotterill said he understood these ‘additional items’ were trim elements that would be replaced to improve safety. He said crash test footage showed some pieces of trim had come loose and broken off during impact.
The recall repair will take two hours to complete. Affected owners will be contacted by mail, and are advised to contact their Chery dealership to book in the service.
Mr Cotterill said seatback instability issue was unlikely to be replicated in the recently released $14,990-driveaway Chery J3 small car.
“The J3 is a much more modern design … it’s a bit of a different proposition,” he said.
Chery became the second Chinese car brand in Australia in February, and in just over seven months it has endured two safety recalls. Mr Cotterill said the it was “unfortunate” that the brand’s launch had been tarnished by safety concerns, but stopped short of calling it disappointing.
“I can’t imagine any manufacturer would want to be in this situation. But it’s certainly spurred them in to action. Personally, I wouldn’t say the word ‘disappointed’, but it’s kicked them into action.”
The Chery J11 has just been crash tested by ANCAP, although no star rating is available yet as ANCAP is still compiling the final report. ANCAP spokesman Allan Yates said the full report would be released “in the next few weeks”.
Although unable to pre-empt or elaborate on the results, Mr Yates said the J11 could not score the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as it is not fitted with electronic stability control (ESC). Since 2008, any vehicle targeting a five-star rating needed to be equipped with ESC.
The J11 is Australia’s cheapest SUV, priced from $17,990 driveaway. It is equipped with two front airbags, ABS and EBD, but misses out on a number of key safety features like ESC, as well as side and curtain airbags and traction control.
Without ESC, the Chery range is not available in Victoria, as the state mandated the technology for all new passenger vehicles from the beginning of this year.
According to the Australian Design Rule 31/02 – Brake Systems for Passenger Cars, the rest the country’s states and territories will require all new passenger vehicles introduced from November 1, 2011 to be fitted with ESC as standard, and then all passenger vehicles to follow suit from November 1, 2013.
Therefore, Chery can continue selling the current versions of the J1, J3 and J11 in all states but Victoria until November 1, 2013 as long as it does not introduce an update that does not include ESC.
Mr Cotterill said it was Chery’s intention to equip all its vehicles with ESC as soon as possible, but admitted he had no indication of when Australians could expect the potentially life-saving technology to be added to the range.