Volkswagen has sold an estimated 55,000 cars in recent months despite knowing they had defective seat belts, according to consumer group Which?
The fault was discovered in May this year by Finnish motoring magazine Tekniikan Maailma and relates to the VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Seat Arona.
When all three rear seat belts are in use in affected cars driven at high speed, the rear left passenger side can become unbuckled.
The discovery prompted the automotive manufacturer to recall thousands of the vehicles.
An interim fix by Volkswagen involving the faulty seat belt block being temporarily secured with a plastic cable tie minimises but does not eradicate the chance of the seat belt coming undone, Which? claimed.
A permanent fix, involving a spacer being fitted to the seat belt mechanism, is due to be introduced this week.
Customers are being contacted in order to arrange a visit and the fix will be free of charge, Volkswagen has said.
However, Which? said it had concerns about how Volkswagen has handled the issue. It has spoken to motorists who said they were not told of the seat belt issue when they picked up their cars in the summer.
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, commented: “VW’s handling of this potentially lethal safety issue has been completely unsatisfactory. It’s shocking that they proposed a permanent fix that doesn’t even properly solve the problem, and we’re concerned that customers might not always be getting the right information at the point of sale.”
She added: “The decision not to suspend sales when the problem was discovered has now put substantially more drivers, as well as their passengers, at risk.”
A Volkswagen spokesman said: “Given the limited circumstances in which the seat belt 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.”
He added: “It is important to note that there 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.”
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