Thousands of cars with “potentially lethal” seatbelt faults are being driven on Britain’s roads, a new report by Which? has claimed.
The consumer body has said Volkswagen and Seat selling vehicles that have a “dangerous and currently unsolved seat belt fault”, despite issuing a recall of 12,000 cars in the UK earlier this year because of the problem.
The cars have a fault that can cause the back left seatbelt buckle to come undone when all three rear seat belts are in use and the car is driven at speed and turned abruptly left, such as in a sudden lane change. The middle buckle can lean on to the left buckle and release it in those circumstances.
The recalled cars were given a temporary fix, Which? says. This included securing the middle and left seatbelts together and advising customers not to use the middle seat. However, it claims the brands have continued to sell thousands of cars with the fault in the UK since.
Affected models include VW Polo cars manufactured in 2018, Seat Arona cars manufactured in 2018, and Seat Ibiza models built in 2017 and 2018.
Volkswagen Group, which owns both car brands, told HuffPost UK it believed the cars were safe to use - as those specific circumstances were rare. It is continuing to sell the cars, but advising customers of the fault. It expects to have a full fix to the problem in November.
Which? says is estimates the number of cars affected in the UK to be around 60,000. A spokesperson told HuffPost UK that car recall regulations in the UK were lax compared with other countries, meaning recalls were largely voluntary.
“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,” Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said.
“It’s another example of how the current car recall system is failing to protect people.”
A Volkwagen Group spokesperson confirmed the technical issue and said it had sent customers a letter informing them and asking them book an appointment. “The current recall solution is a temporary measure which aims to minimise further what is already an extremely low risk of the rear left seat buckle being unintentionally unfastened during exceptionally specific and rare driving conditions,” they said.
It said it would also send a “warning sticker” to customers of affected vehicles for their dash panel - warning them not to use the middle set until the permanent fix in November has been applied.