Volkswagen to recall 75,000 ‘potentially lethal’ cars after using plastic cable ties to fix a dangerous rear seatbelt fault

75,000 cars are set to be recalled due to the revealing that Volkswagen have been fixing ‘potentially lethal’ seatbelt faults with plastic cable ties.

Owners of affected VW Polo, Seat Arona and Ibiza models had notified it of the ‘interim’ remedy installed as part of an informal recall to prevent rear seatbelts from unbuckling themselves. This could put passengers in danger, usually children, who are sat in the second row.

Since VW had contacted around 12,000 owners of at-risk models in May, another 55,000 vehicles have been sold with the same problem to new customers.

Earlier this year, Tekniikan Maailma, Finnish motoring magazine, originally identified the issue while road testing the 3 VW Group models. When the car was traveling with thee in the back, it was found that the left rear buckle in the 3 could release. This also happened when the vehicle made sudden direction changes.

VW Spokesman said it had been notified of the problem and would provide a technical solution and recall the vehicles. An investigation by consumer group Which? Found that that technical solution wasn’t up to standard.

The car maker used cable ties to secure the faulty seatbelt, which was originally rejected by the DVSA.

It was initially advised by VW for drivers not to use the centre-rear seat and continue to reiterate that warning even for those with vehicles that had been recalled.

In letters sent to owners, the car maker stated: ‘Please note that this campaign is only an interim solution and cannot guarantee safety on a permanent basis. We would therefore ask you to refrain from using the rear middle seat until the new (permanent) campaign 69X5 has been carried out.’

Owners of these vehicles have therefore not been able to carry 3 second-row passengers for the last 6 months.
Polo owners have been in contact with Which? Saying they were only notified of the fault 4 weeks after purchasing the car after receiving a letter from VW.

Managing Director of Which? Described VW’s actions as ‘completely unsatisfactory’ and called on the DVSA to investigate.

Letters were sent to the affected owners to warn them of the fault and provided them with dashboard stickers showing not to use the rear-centre seatbelt.

Alex Neill, Which? Said “Supplying a warning sticker is a startlingly inadequate response to a fault which is putting lives at risk. It is shocking that VW and Seat are selling thousands of cars that they know have a serious safety issue but do not yet have a proper fix for. 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”.

In a statement, a VWG spokesperson told the BBC: ‘These specific communications – both of the issue and the relevant steps to take – with all of our affected customers were felt to be more effective than a statement on a website..’Given the limited circumstances in which the seatbelt can (in the test conditions) come unbuckled, and the employment of the interim fix and further still the specific warnings provided to users, there is no materially increased risk. It is on that basis that sales continued.’

Which? estimated that around 1,500 of the 75,000 affected models will never be fixed ‘as a direct result of VW continuing to sell cars that have to be recalled at a later point.’