Vauxhall has called for the creation of a national vehicle fire database in order to help the automotive industry gain access to information on vehicle fires held by insurers.
Talking at a meeting with the Transport Select Committee yesterday, where Vauxhall was questioned on the Zafira fire issue that resulted in a recall of more than 220,000 vehicles last year, Vauxhall said it believes that "by accessing information from insurers, manufacturers may be able to identify potential issues earlier than at present".
The carmaker added that it understood that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) had already written to the Transport Select Committee supporting the proposal in principle.
A Vauxhall spokesman said: "While the data will not reveal the causes of fire, it can nevertheless play an invaluable role in alerting manufacturers to potential issues much earlier than is possible at present.
"As Vauxhall’s experience with Zafira B shows, manufacturers have limited visibility of fires in their vehicles. Many Zafira B fire cases, for example, were reported to Vauxhall several years after they took place and only as a result of publicity in October 2015."
Vauxhall chiefs are being accused of responding too slowly to the issue, which is thought to have been known about since 2009 and resulted in at least 120 Mk2 Zafiras, officially named Zafira Bs, catching fire in Britain.
The issue is linked to an improper repair of thermal fuses in the heating and ventilation system for cars with manual air conditioning or no air conditioning, built between 2005 and 2014.
Vauxhall’s 2016 recall has cost the firm £40 million and is said to rectify the problem with a permanent fix. However, of the 221,000 Zafiras involved, so far, only 165,562 (74.2%) have had the necessary work done. There are 57,261 still to be recalled and many of these are older vehicles – 41% are 2008 or older – making it harder to track their owners down.
The car maker addressed this matter at the meeting, highlighting the challenges facing manufacturers trying to complete recalls.
A spokesman said in a press statement: "For example, whilst 166,000 UK-registered Zafira Bs have now had their second and final fix, 55,000 have not had the work done, despite owners receiving up to seven letters. These include thousands of vehicles without an MOT and thousands more ‘sold to trade’. Vauxhall is doing everything it can to reach the remaining vehicles, including co-operating with the AA and RAC to gain access to alternative contact information for owners."
Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, chairman of the Transport Select Committee Louise Ellman said: “We are keen to hear how Vauxhall has dealt with customers’ about safety. People should feel their concerns have been taken seriously and dealt with swiftly and thoroughly.”
Vauxhall faced the Transport Select Committee last year over the same issue. Ellman said: “In evidence we heard from Vauxhall last year, it was clear that good standards of communication with customers were lacking."