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May 20th 2014
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www.stuff.co.nz 19th March
TV3 NEWS STORY
A car modified for wheelchair users has been pulled off the road after concerns its floor could become detached because it was only glued on.
The NZ Transport Agency has revoked the warrants of fitness of eight Skoda Yetis that were modified by Auckland company U Drive Mobility after five months of trying to work through serious safety concerns.
U Drive Mobility imports the vehicles, which are disassembled and then put together again in New Zealand with modifications that allow wheelchair users to get in and out independently.
Modifications include replacing the original, reinforced steel floor with an aluminium sandwich panel that is glued into the body of the vehicle with epoxy, a car panel glue that NZTA says is not safe for use on load-bearing vehicle body parts.
NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said there were serious concerns about the design and construction of the cars, specifically about the floors and the stability of their independent rear suspensions.
“The effect of these [floor] modifications was to remove a significant part of the vehicle’s structure and replace it with material not designed and constructed with materials and components that are fit for purpose.
“The structural integrity of the vehicle would likely be significantly compromised in a serious crash.”
Warrants of fitness were issued for four of the cars before the modifications were made, and four were given certification incorrectly, Mr Knackstedt said.
The cars were certified by an independent assessor, but a second set of checks by the Low-Volume Vehicle Technical Association (LVVTA) highlighted serious safety issues.
Mr Knackstedt said U Drive Mobility had not been able to satisfy NZTA or the LVVTA that the cars were safe and fit for purpose.
Eight people who bought the vehicles – some with grants from the Ministry of Health and the Lotteries Commission – have been ordered not to drive them until the issues are resolved.
NZTA has offered affected owners $5000 to cover transport needs until then, and told them to consider seeking independent legal advice and contacting the health and disability commissioner.
U Drive Mobility director Roger Phillips said the company was working through the compliance process with NZTA and LVVTA, but he did not have any concerns about the safety of the cars.
“They’ve been on the road now, the oldest one for nearly two years, and there hasn’t been a problem with the vehicles, nothing. It’s a compliance issue.”
Mr Phillips said customers had been kept informed and the company had followed the processes, and done what it had been asked to do to resolve the issues, including passing required tests.
LVVTA chief executive Tony Johnson said U Drive Mobility had been reluctant to accept the seriousness of the issue, and a recall and repair of the cars in November had failed to fix the issue.
The Vehicle Association of New Zealand, a watchdog for modifications on cars for people with disabilities, said there were already similarly designed cars on the market, and all had been through the certification process.
Chairman Robert Berger said the association stood by LVVTA’s assessment of the cars, but the system had failed.
“The system has failed the owners of the vehicles and people with disabilities, in that it should never have got to this stage of construction, it should not have happened.
“Right at the beginning, the certifiers should have looked at the job and said, this isn’t safe, and that should have been the end of it.”
We have also made comment on this matter here: lvvta-incompetence-threatens-lives/
Comments on STUFF below:
Robert2 days ago
The work should be certified only by a real engineer .That is some one who has been to University and has a degree for example Mechanical Engineer.
JohnBrett3 days ago
I have LVV Certified many similar vehicles with rear wheel-chair ramps. The reason that steel is used in any body-restructure is because it can reliably reproduce the characteristics of the structure removed, which was steel. One important consideration is the crumple performance:- steel can deform and absorb energy in a way that composites cannot. These vehicles should be re-engineered in line with normal, proven practice for this type of modification.
Ross M5 days ago
Lotus has been using glue for their aluminium-extrusion-framed sports cars for a long time now…
Gazglor6 days ago
I don’t believe that the LVVTA have the ability to approve this type of work. After all, they still will not approve an A frame connection onto a motor home for towing vehicles and nor will the Insurance Industry confirm in writing that they will pay out on any future accident. How can a restraint system work satisfactorily in the situation you describe? Why don’t you check with your insurance company. Until or unless we mass produce motor vehicles in. NZ and we probably never will because we are too small then we need to approach the world market for a solution and if there isn’t one then why try and invent the wheel? Sorry about that.
Wheel Less7 days ago
As one of the affected owners yes we do feel extremely let down by the system.
Our vehicle was issued a certificate by the independent certifier which was followed by a plate from the LVVTA. The warrant was issued following the cert. We did not make our final payment until this point and placed complete reliance on these. This certifier is still listed on the LVVTA site.
We do not fell qualified to comment on the technical issues and of course safety is paramount but we understood the inspection would have covered these issues.
Disabled road users deserve better. It is a huge financial commitment to purchase one of these vehicles and there is not a lot of choice especially if you do not want a big van. These vehicles make a huge difference to our and our family’s lives and our independence.
These vehicles have actually been off the road for 4 months now and this is taking its toll on all the users.
We certainly need to lobby for better systems.
CharleyL7 days ago
It is probably best to consider what you are about to say carefully before you burst into print – I would have bought one of these cars had we not lost the family member.
Aluminum (and particularly the “honeycomb” composite) is a far superior and stronger material compared to steel when used in constructing a vehicle, that is why Jaguar, Lotus and other top quality manufacturers use it for structural components in preference to steel – the Wurth Glue used in construction is the very same one used by the original manufacturer Skoda, it is an approved product for this purpose.
There is a great deal of test data relating to these vehicles, all carried out by U Drive to ensure that all safety aspects were addressed and ironically the modified vehicle appears stronger than the original.
These cars are built by highly skilled individuals in a proper facility (I inspected it) and with the price in mind I think there is little reward for the owners of the company.
There is no new vehicle available in New Zealand that provides a disabled person the same level of comfort, versatility and freedom as these, there have only been to date some poor quality used imported cars and awful vans – I had to buy one before these were available. If you are in any doubt, ask one of the owners of the vehicles in question.
Lastly, ask what test data the LVVTA has that justifies their actions and substantiates their assessment ? Remember that the (genuinely highly qualified) LVVTA certifiers initially checked and put their name against the certification for these vehicles – not something done lightly by anyone.
Remember – it’s your (taxpayer) $40 000.00 given away by the LVVTA and 8 disabled peopled that have had their freedom limited from the start of the festive season.
You need to ask if the LVVTA has concrete data that proves these cars are unsafe and what test proved that they had to be taken off the road immediately and did they provide this information to the owners?
Some serious questions need to be asked and properly answered by the LVVTA, frankly the media need to do this and it needs to be done for all to see.
ArthurOrd-Hulme7 days ago
Epoxy glues are used to hold most modern aircraft together, and are as strong as electric arc welding, as any suitably qualified engineer will know. I have had deal with the LVVTA in the area of Wheelchair Vehicles, and it is a pretty safe bet that their ‘engineer’ , who will only understand older welding/bolts methods of assembly, saw “glue” and panicked and reached for the “Dangerous/Ban It” rubber stamp. And in my experience will not be answering the phone or emails to justify their actions.
Niggly7 days ago
clearly Stuff didnt care for my earlier comments, that there are literally thousands of Skoda Yetis on the road in Europe being used as “Motability” vehicles. Why is the situation so different in NZ. Surely Euro specs are safe?
Backstreets7 days ago
That would mean that all Holdens would have to be taken off the roads as well
JoeAstorNZ7 days ago
Of course Roger Phillips doesn’t have any safety concerns about his modified vehicles…that would affect his bottom dollar.
Jonman7 days ago
Epoxy glue hold the new Airbus380 together.
Ross.7 days ago
I feel sorry for those that have bought one but I agree with CharlieC. It’s more about the damage and injuries caused by the stresses and strains even in a minor accident. Then the finger would be pointed at the LWTA.
JohnBrett7 days ago
The LVVTA approved these Certifications, with their ‘desk top audit’ process. The LVV Certifier involved was a member of the LVVTA’s Technical Advisory Committee.
Plenty of similar vehicles have been correctly Certified with steel floor-pans Mig-spot welded to the existing structure.
The big danger is the incompetence of the LVVTA.
daddio527 days ago
May have been on the road for 2 years Roger but hasn’t been tested by a crash as yet so your point is a moot one.
ibbillib7 days ago
The people who are stuck with the lemons should sue the Govt Body which certified the vehicles. Any Certification done for modification is expected to attain all levels in respect to safety and structural integrity. In this case that failed and they should be held accountable to the full extent of the Law.
Otay10007 days ago
LVVTA is not a government body! NZTA is the government body causing the problem here. Obviously the particular shaping of the material in the floor- which is more important than the material used- is poorly designed. Most cars are made of light sheet steel which only achieves its strength after being shaped into ribs and curves etc. maybe the design does need to be revisited. As Charlie C and daddio say – they need to be crash tested to be proven safe.
CharlieC8 days ago
Roger Phillips isn’t listening, is he. So what if they’ve been on the road for years? The concern isn’t for the day to day driveability or suitability of the vehicles, it’s what will happen to them in the event of a serious crash.
Aluminium and steel expand, contract and stretch differently, so replacing the manufacturer’s designed and tested load-bearing steel floor pan with a different metal is absurd, and being a different metal is the reason they are gluing it. Sure it’s going to be more expensive to form a new steel plate and weld it but it’s baffling that they even seriously considered aluminium.
Comments from Dominion Post:
JohnBrett1 hour ago
SpeakSoftly speaks wisdom. I am a LVV Certifier who has certified many body re-structures, and many disability vehicles such as these. The issue with Aluminium honeycomb, and adhesives is not the materials themselves. The issue is that you are re-structuring a steel structure with designed crumple performance. The only way to reliably reproduce the performance of the material removed is to replace with similar, i.e. folded sheet steel fixed with MIG spot welds and fillet welds. The LVV System has outgrown its origins and originators, and needs to become more professional.
SpeakSoftly3 hours ago
I think the real question is – Why does the NZTA continue to delegate the certification process to an organisation set up 20 years ago by a bunch of hot-rodders to certify hot-rods, and still staffed by a large number of ageing hot-rodders? The comments below about ” not everything is welded or bolted together” are right on the mark, who are the LVVTA to decide either way whether glueing aluminium honeycomb to steel is OK, or to police the certification process when a certifier takes it upon himself to decide? Every issue that crops up is a whole new area for them to learn about, or to just let go until something happens.
Maybe the NZTA should reconsider their original proposal from 20 odd years ago?
Edward Jones8 days ago
The time has come when the Government should give consideration to separating disability vehicle modification requirements from general vehicle compliancing requirements. The demanding areas encountered in modifying vehicles for the disabled are the realm of experienced specialists and should be treated as such – but that is only my opinion. As a wheelchair bound driver with paraplegia, I can assure you that the vehicle choices available to the disabled consumer are extremely limited world wide and anybody accepting the challenge of entering this field on a global scale should be encouraged. However the Skoda Yeti concept is not new and there is a conservative choice of such products available in other countries. The problem, from the consumer’s point of view, is that all vehicles are simply modified versions of existing vehicles and thus very few are truly suitable even when extensively and expensively modified. Wheelchair bound drivers, world wide, await a manufacturer to market an inexpensive lightweight vehicle, built from the ground up, just for them. If only !
ChrisM112 days ago
I understood epoxy glue was permitted to be used on commercial aircraft. Somewhat surprised that it is considered unsuitable for cars, although this may be an over-simplistic view. Perhaps someone could enlighten me on this.
ChrisM112 days ago
Following on from this, I have since read a posting by CharlieC on Stuff article relating to this same matter. It was pointed out that steel and aluminum expand and contract at different rates with changes in temperature, therefore gluing is not appropriate. This appears to vindicate the decision of LVVTA. Interested to hear further information.
Elderlybloke12 days ago
There are very good Glues /Adhesives available.
Commercial Aircraft use Adhesives to secure parts together and Aviation has a very high regard for Safety.
Our Authorities are still decades behind the rest of the World.
BarnacleBill12 days ago
You, and others with similar comments, are making the assumption that the adhesive used was in fact a structural one. There are glues that are used for non-load bearing panels (door skins etc) and glues that are used for structural stuff. The panel stuff is not suitable for structural areas. The article says it is “car panel glue” which would seem to indicate it is the former.
DonG12 days ago
The system was designed to serve the people. We empower the system to empower ourselves for the benefit of us all. Let us not lose sight of what is really important… Joy and learning.
To be wealthy we must allow others to be wealthy by allowing others to profit too…
We must give as we would like to be given to if we are to receive as we would like to receive.
ArthurOrd-Hulme12 days ago
If you are worried about the structural safety of epoxy glue whatever you do, do not get in an aircraft. Most planes are now built making extensive structural use of epoxy glues, and we are talking 777s etc. I have dealt with the Low Volume Vehicle Technical Association in the area of Wheelchair Vehicles. Based on that experience, I am guessing that one of their ‘engineers’ has seen “glue” and panicked, not understanding that nowadays not everything is welded or bolted together. And automatically reached for his/her “Dangerous, Ban It” rubber stamp. He/she will now be hiding under their desk, frightened of the consequences of their actions.
Niggly12 days ago
similar cars are in use in their thousands in Europe. Why the problem here?
Terry Harris12 days ago
pecee12 days ago
good god,what next,
DonG12 days ago
Exactly. Someone in the system has got out of hand. This is what mps are there to fix.
I watched the on tv last year.
Why would anyone pay tax?