GWM South Africa has reassured customers that there is no cause for immediate concern following the discovery of components containing asbestos in a number of its vehicles.

The recent discovery of gaskets containing trace amounts of asbestos in vehicles exported to the Australian market has caused something of a furore in the automotive industry. GWM South Africa has revealed that research carried out by occupational Australian health and safety consultants Hibbs and Associates has found that the levels of asbestos discovered in the gaskets of certain vehicles in that market is “negligible”.

The report states: "there were negligible health risks for drivers, passengers and mechanics working on the vehicles. Even if carried out in an uncontrolled way, handling and removing these gaskets constitutes a very low asbestos related health risk."

In addition, an alert on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) website indicates: “The gaskets are tightly embedded in the vehicle and present no hazard during normal operation of the vehicle. Caution must be taken if carrying out maintenance and a special repair guide needs to be followed for the repair.”

Chairman of GWM South Africa,Tony Pinfold, has emphasised that the safety of GWM customers has and always will be of immense importance to the manufacturer.

“Rest assured that a thorough investigation has been undertaken into the matter of the asbestos found in the gaskets of some of our vehicles in Australia. 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,” Pinfold explains.

Great Wall Motors’ manufacturing facilities in China have stopped using gaskets sourced from the supplier responsible and has recalled all parts in question. GWM South Africa has also implemented a plan to source alternative replacement parts. Although the use of gaskets containing asbestos traces does not apply to all of GWM’s vehicles, the company has decided to take the additional precaution of replacing these parts free of charge when customers take their vehicles in for a service at an approved GWM service centre.

In terms of local models potentially affected by this issue, only selected older GWM pick-up and SUV models are affected, such as the older 2.2, 2.8 TCI and 2.5 TCI pick-ups and the older SUVs with 4G64 and 4G69 engines are believed to be affected.

Tony Pinfold concludes: “GWM South Africa remains committed to operating with integrity and accountability. We can assure all our customers that measures have been put in place both globally and locally to avoid a repeat of this issue.”