Volkswagen and Seat are selling vehicles that have a dangerous and currently unsolved seat belt fault, despite launching a recall of the same cars earlier this year, Which? has discovered.
In May, independent tests by Finnish magazine Tekniikan Maailma found that when all three rear seat belts are in use and an affected car is driven at speed, the back-left seat belt could come undone, leaving a passenger in that position unsecured.
After confirming this fault, Volkswagen Group recalled around 12,000 new VW Polos and thousands more Seat Ibizas and Seat Aronas. However, the current recall does not fix the issue.
Instead, the ‘temporary measure’ involves securing the central and back-left seatbelt buckles together.
Despite confirming the possibly fatal seat belt fault in May this year, Volkswagen Group has confirmed to Which? that it is continuing to sell affected cars without a permanent fix in place. It said it expects retailers to warn people about the problem before buying one of these cars.
The company also told Which? that buyers of these cars will be issued with a warning sticker ‘in due course’ to attach to their dashboard. This tells owners not to use the rear middle seat until a permanent fix is in place.
The company estimates that permanent solution will not be available until November.
The cars affected by the fault continue to be sold in large numbers. The number of cars affected in the UK has increased to 35,263 VW Polos and 28,639 Seats (Ibiza and Arona combined).
Which? believes it is unacceptable that Volkswagen Group is selling cars with a known safety issue that could put passengers at risk, and highlights severe problems with the car recall system.
This case, as well as the BMW recall earlier this year, exposes several crucial failings. The system is simply too dependent on companies self-policing, placing too much reliance on manufacturers to judge what they believe to be “safe” or “unsafe”, as well as leaving it in their hands to produce the plan to resolve the issue – which in this circumstance, is woefully lacking.
The consumer champion believes that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) must be given enforcement powers to hold car manufacturers, such as VW Group, to account.
These powers currently lie with Trading Standards. Until the DVSA is given the ability to enforce, it must proactively work with Trading Standards to tackle inadequate product recalls that could put people’s safety at risk.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:
“It’s shocking that VW and Seat are selling thousands of cars that they know have a serious safety issue but don’t yet have a proper fix for.
“Volkswagen Group should not be selling these potentially dangerous vehicles at all. Supplying a warning sticker is a startlingly inadequate response to a fault which is putting lives at risk.
“It’s another example of how the current car recall system is failing to protect people. The DVSA must be given the powers it needs to hold manufacturers to account.”
1. Tekniikan Maailma testing:
The tests undertaken by the Finnish magazine discovered that when carrying five passengers, changing lanes to the left caused the seatbelt buckle to push against the buckle on the left, therefore releasing it.
The buckles are all at different heights to make them easier to use. This means the middle buckle is higher than the left-hand one which in turn means the edge of the central buckle is in a similar position to the release button on the middle one.
Tekniikan Maailma said the problem affects cars built on the MQB A0 base model, which is used in VW Group’s new small cars, the Seat Arona, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo