A damning government report has criticised Vauxhall's reaction to fires in its Zafira, accusing it of putting public safety at risk

Vauxhall showed a “reckless disregard for safety” over the Zafira fires in allowing owners to continue driving their cars after a fire risk was identified, according to a damning government report.

Parliament's Transport Select Committee described Vauxhall’s failure not to warn customers sooner as “morally reprehensible”.

The British car manufacturer was also deemed too slow to take action over the fires, which came to prominence in 2015, and was also too quick to blame garages for improper and unauthorised repair, said the report. It also alleged that no efforts were made to trace the poor repairs.

Vauxhall said there were “lessons to learned” from the Zafira fires.

Vauxhall sold more than 230,000 Zafira models with manual or no air conditioning between 2005 and 2014. The first report of a Zafira fire was noted by the car maker in 2009, Five years later, in 2014, concern was raised within Vauxhall that these fires had a distinctive pattern, but it wasn’t until August 2015 that Vauxhall started to investigate.  At that time, 161 fires were logged.

Vauxhall’s first recall over the issue came in December 2015. In February 2016, it was made aware of the first fire in a recalled vehicle, but did not launch its second recall until May 2016.

The report heavily criticised Vauxhall in letting people continue to drive vehicles that had been recalled and returned to owners when it knew that the Zafiras could still catch fire, saying: "Vauxhall's decision to continue to let people drive affected cars amounts to a reckless disregard for safety. This is particularly damning given its admission that it should have notified customers earlier".

The report continued: "In the absence of any explanation for its tardy response from the witnesses that appeared before us we can only conclude that commercial considerations and the need to avoid reputational damage were put ahead of safety; this is unacceptable and morally reprehensible." 

The debacle has also flagged the need for better processes across the industry to address the failings in the UK’s car recalls system.  

The inquiry said that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) relied too heavily on manufacturers to report safety concerns and should instead encourage drivers and other areas of the industry, such as garages and insurers, to flag issues.

The Committee also advised that the DVSA should have more power to seize vehicles for fire investigations from unwilling manufacturers as well as being able to threaten prosecution if parties fail to comply with recalls.

Chair of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said: "Vehicle fires are terrifying for their occupants and other road users. In this inquiry, we heard how one car manufacturer was too slow to acknowledge drivers’ concerns, too slow to begin an investigation, too slow to address the causes and too slow to alert drivers of real safety concerns. Drivers and their families were needlessly put at risk."

She added: “All car manufacturers should take heed of the recommendations in this report.  The current voluntary approach to recalls is not robust enough. The DVSA must be given enforcement powers to compel manufacturers to act should it need to do so. This will ensure that drivers can have full confidence in the recall system.”

Vauxhall said: "We apologise to anyone who has experienced anguish or distress as a result of this incident. Nothing is more important to us than safety. We go to enormous lengths to maintain the safety of our vehicles and we have strengthened these processes further as a result of the learnings from Zafira B."

It said it has made improvements to the way it investigates cases of vehicle fires and strengthened its recall process to ensure vehicle safety and to minimise customer inconvenience.

"While we recognise that undertaking two recalls was inconvenient for Zafira B customers, we maintain that the first recall was necessary based on our investigations and we were compelled to act with urgency based on the information available, notwithstanding the fact that further investigations were ongoing. As soon as we had identified the issue, we made it clear to customers in the recall letters how they should operate the heating and ventilation system to keep them safe," the car maker said.

Vauxhall stated that it had "made very good progress with the second recall, which provides a final fix to the problem". It also confirmed that 183,172 vehicles have had the second recall carried out and that it is "working closely with DVSA" to complete the process.

 

Join the debate

Comments
5

28 April 2017
Some times General Motors don't help themselves. Mind you, they're not alone.

28 April 2017
Surely if there's a problem, it will apply also to Opel Zafiras sold in other markets? I can't see how the position of the steering wheel has any bearing on the propensity of this model to catch fire. Would be interesting to know what is happening elsewhere.

28 April 2017
Wiring may be routed differently to avoid the steering column as in the case of Zafiras.
Older Fiats are well known for failing clutch cables on RHD as they are routed tight to the exhaust downpipes resulting in lubricant drying up and cables becoming stiff and snapping.
Older VW Polo's were notorious for spongy brakes in RHD form as the linkage wandered its way across the bulkhead to the RHD pedals from the LHD brake cylinder.
Steam cars are due a revival.

28 April 2017
Once experienced never forgotten.
On its own the GM customer 'experience' must have lost them lots of sales....

I hope PSA can sort things out

Steam cars are due a revival.

28 April 2017
The decision makers at Vauxhall should be put on trial and sent to prison if they are found guilty.

We need real punishments to stop this sort of bad behaviour.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals
  • Hyundai Kona
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment
  • Citroën C3 Aircross
    First Drive
    17 October 2017
    The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best
  • Skoda-Karoq 2.0 TDI 4x4
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Diesel version of Skoda’s junior SUV is unobtrusive and undemanding, but we’d still go for the silkier petrol version of the Karoq
  • Audi Q7 e-tron
    First Drive
    16 October 2017
    Expensive and flawed but this understated diesel-electric Audi Q7 has a lot to offer