More than 6,000 motorists have failed to have a potentially dangerous fault with their car’s seat belts fixed, more than a year after a recall was announced.
Volkswagen and Seat issued a safety recall of several models in late 2019 but an investigation by consumer group Which? found that in December 2019, 6,612 had still not had the remedial work carried out.
It is now warning that affected models could be reaching the second-hand market without the recall being carried out, and with the new owners unaware of the risk.
What is the fault?
The fault relates to the rear seat belt buckles coming unclipped unexpectedly under certain conditions.
Finnish magazine Tekniikan Maailma found that when the middle and rear left seats of some models were occupied and there was a sudden change in direction the rear left belt would be released.
Because the middle belt buckle sits slightly higher than the one beside it, a high-speed lane change to the left can force it into the buckle release with enough force to unclip the rear left belt.
After confirming the issue, Volkswagen and Seat recalled around 20,000 cars and applied a temporary fix – a plastic cable tie – to recalled cars and to all new models sold from May 2018 before recalling them all to have a permanent fix carried out.
What models are affected?
A total of 76,484 are affected, and around 92 per cent of cars have been fixed under the scheme.
Volkswagen and Seat argue that because affected models are so new, most are still with their original buyers, who will have been contacted directly to alert them about the recall. They also pointed out that anyone buying a car after May 2018 would have been told about the fault and not to use all the rear seats at once.
A spokesperson for Volkswagen told Which?: “Affected cars are relatively new and within warranty period. Therefore, customers will bring these cars into official Volkswagen/Seat retailers for a service.
“We make every effort to encourage customers to have a recall carried out at their earliest convenience. Furthermore, any cars that are serviced or sold in our network are checked and if necessary rectified for any outstanding recalls or technical updates.”
Used car issues
However, Which? said it had found affected models for sale second-hand which still had outstanding safety recalls against them. Dealerships have a legal obligation to have such recalls attended to before selling the car but private buyers don’t have to tell buyers of any outstanding recalls.
Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “VW’s handling of the potentially dangerous seat belt fault was appalling and the decision not to suspend sales put substantially more people at risk.
“While most of the affected cars have since been successfully recalled, there are still thousands of vehicles on the road with a potentially dangerous fault that need to be fixed. Worryingly, these could be resold to new owners with no declaration that the car has been recalled for a safety issue.”
How to check if your car is affected
If you are the first keeper of the car, you should have been contacted by Volkswagen or Seat, or the work should have been carried out during a routine service.
However, if you have not been contacted by the manufacturer, are worried that your car has not had the work carried out, or want to check the recall status of a used car you are thinking of buying you can use the DVSA recall checker tool. Simply enter the car’s registration number and it will tell you of any outstanding official recalls.