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Great Wall Motors South Africa has reacted sharply to Wednesday's recall of 23 000 GWM and Chery cars and bakkies in Australia because of heath fears related to the asbestos content in their cylinder head and exhaust manifold gaskets.
GWM SA chairman Tony Pinfold said on Thursday: “As the amount of asbestos in these gaskets is negligible, it poses no direct threat to the drivers or passengers of the affected GWM vehicles.”
He quoted an assessment by occupational health and safety consultants Hibbs and Associates in Australia which concluded that there were negligible health risks for drivers, passengers or mechanics working on the vehicles.
The report states: “Even if carried out in an uncontrolled way, handling and removing these gaskets constitutes a very low asbestos-related health risk.”
MAJOR POINT OF CONCERN
Nevertheless, an alert on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website indicates: “Caution must be taken if carrying out maintenance and a special repair guide needs to be followed for the repair.”
And this of course, is the major point of concern, when non-franchised and DIY home mechanics work on these engines in years to come, blissfully unaware of the presence of hazardous materials.
Pinfold emphasised that Great Wall Motors in China had ceased using the supplier of the gaskets and had recalled all the parts in question, and that GWM SA was sourcing alternative replacement parts.
“Not all GWM vehicles contain these gaskets.”
“They appear mainly in older models,” he said. “As an extra precautionary measure, they will be replaced free of charge at the customer's next service.”
According to Pinfold, the only GWM models in South Africa with the 'dirty' gaskets are earlier 2.2, 2.8 TCI and 2.5 TCI bakkies and SUV's 4G64 and 4G69 engines.
CHERY SA REACTION
Chery SA managing director Brett Soso told IOL Motoring that the problem was restricted to the exhaust manifold gaskets on some Tiggo and J3 models. Only the Tiggo was currently available in South Africa, he said; the J3 would be released here in November 2012.
He said he couldn't pinpoint the extent of the problem because the parent company had not yet come back to him with details of exactly which vehicles were fitted with the suspect gaskets - so he'd taken the precaution of removing all Tiggo exhaust manifold gaskets from the shelves of South African Chery dealers until more specific information became available.