China, as if to highlight how far behind the rest of the world it is in terms of consumer protection and quality control, is only now poised to enact rules to enable car owners to have flaws fixed. Public pressure had been mounting due to increases in complaints from car owners and the rising number of deaths on China’s roads. The regulation–which echoes similar rules in place internationally for years–is scheduled to take effect on October 1 and is expected to enable Chinese consumers to have their faulty cars fixed, especially in cases where foreign automakers exclude China in their recalls of defective products. Statistics show that up to 10 per cent of China’s traffic accidents — which claimed 109,000 lives in 2002 — are caused by vehicles’ mechanical problems, though the exact proportion of mishaps resulting from defects in auto designs and production is not available. But in Germany, an average of only 4,000 people die in traffic accidents each year, despite the country having twice as many automobiles as China’s 20 million. “The poor record in China has been the result of many factors and we cannot neglect car quality controls,” said Liu Zhaobin, director of the Quality Control Department under the State General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine. Yu Xianzhong, spokesman for the administration, views the watchdog’s move as a breakthrough step to push forward the nation’s recall system to deal with problematic goods. Yu’s administration is responsible for organizing and managing the recall system. “After extensive preparation including investigations and workshops in China and abroad, online and offline, over the past three years, we think the time is ripe for us to enact a recall regime for defective cars,” Yu said. The recall plan is dedicated to forcing manufacturers and importers to remove the flaws that may cause injury or economic losses by way of repairs, changing parts or taking back whole vehicles. But the regulation will only cover vehicles with less than nine seats. Auto producers and consumers have cautiously welcomed the system, which is common internationally. Volkswagen (China) said in a statement that the group supports a recall system that is objective and effective. To achieve that end, the government should set up a comprehensive legal framework to ensure voices from various affected parties are heard and confidential company information is preserved, the statement said. According to the regulation, if automobile producers attempt to cover up or do not report the flaws, relevant departments can urge them to recall their goods, publicize their behaviour and impose fines in line with other laws and regulations. Yu Xiaoxi, a company employee in Beijing’s Chaoyang District, said the recall system is likely to protect consumers’ interests and help automobile makers improve the quality of their products. “I’ve been longing to own a car and news of the regulation has increased my enthusiasm,” said Yu, who is among millions of potential car buyers in China, where about 4.4 million domestic automobiles and 170,000 imported autos were sold in 2003. Compared with the year before, the numbers increased by about 34 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively. Like some other potential buyers, Yu said her wait-and-see attitude was partly influenced by the fact that the safety control systems of some domestic cars, although increasingly affordable, need to be further improved. “The recall system will force car producers to improve,” Yu said. The country’s increasing integration with the global market, plus its grim safety record, partly prompted the drafting of the regulation.