VW Group, the owner of Volkswagen and Seat, has been blasted over its â€œcompletely unsatisfactoryâ€ handling of a potentially lethal seat belt fault since being alerted to the problem six months ago.
In May it was discovered the rear-left seat belts in Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Seat Arona models were at risk of coming undone.
VW’s informal recall
VW Group launched an â€œinformal recallâ€ but has since sold an estimated 55,000 cars with this potentially lethal fault
Officially, the cars remain legally approved and safe to drive, as the recalls have been allowed by the appropriate authorities, and there is no suggestion that VW has acted unlawfully.
Road users ‘at risk’
However, consumer group Which? has raised concerns that this informal recall has been a â€œflawed processâ€ and has claimed road users have been put at risk.
Under the informal recall an interim fix is being applied whereby the faulty seat belt block is temporarily secured with a plastic cable tie. However, the cable tie only minimises the risk, and does not eliminate the chance of the seat belt coming undone.
Yet VW Group floated this solution as a permanent fix, according to Which?. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which is responsible for vehicle safety, confirmed it raised concerns and did not approve the suggestion.
VW Group has now developed a different solution to be applied permanently, but Which? has criticised the car maker for its initial response to the issue and has called on the DVSA to investigate.
â€œVWâ€™s handling of this potentially lethal safety issue has been completely unsatisfactory,â€ said Alex Neill of Which?.
â€œItâ€™s shocking that they proposed a permanent fix that doesnâ€™t even properly solve the problem…The DVSA must investigate VWâ€™s handling of the whole situation,â€ she added.
VW Group: safety is top priority
In response the car maker stressed that customer safety was its â€œtop priorityâ€ and said a permanent fix had been introduced into vehicles currently in production. The fix, which involves a spacer being fitted to the seat belt mechanism, will be rolled out to affected customers in a recall commencing on Monday.
â€œThere have been no known cases worldwide of any seat belts being released in this manner, other than in the highly specific and exceptional circumstances demonstrated in the test by a Finnish car magazine,â€ the company said in a statement.