Senior Vauxhall and General Motors representatives have admitted to the UK's Transport Committee that they knew of fire issues with the Vauxhall Zafira Mk2s back in 2009, but didn't carry out an investigation until 2014 because they were unable to confirm if the cases were linked.
Peter Hope, Vauxhall's customer experience director, and Charles J Klein, engineering executive director for global CO2 strategy and energy centre at General Motors, were grilled by the committee earlier today following the recall of 234,938 Zafira Mk2s after it was found the model had a fire issue.
The first recall was announced late last year and another was issued this May because the car maker wanted to change electrical components to further prevent a risk of fire. Today's parliamentary committee, which is responsible for the Department for Transport, called into question why the recalls were so delayed despite reports claiming that hundreds of Mk2 Zafira owners had experienced fires since 2009.
"Often when fires are reported [the cause is] not clear, either because the vehicles themselves are totally destroyed or because we don't have access to the vehicle to inspect it," answered Hope. "For those vehicles prior to 2014, we didn't have enough evidence from the reporting system which we had to identify this as an issue that we could take action with. From 2014 onwards there was a recognition of a pattern and that was then investigated extensively with our engineers."
But the response didn't satisfy the committee members, with one stating that Vauxhall's action weren't good enough. "You knew the car wasn't safe and you sat on your hands for so long."
The committee compared Vauxhall's case to that of Volkswagen and its dieselgate scandal, but Hope contested, saying: "There are always areas of any manufacturer's actions where you think 'I would have loved to have either known that earlier or taken action earlier'. But we didn't at that stage. Is that acceptable, is that something I feel happy with? No.
"But what I'm really trying to assure you is that it is never about casualness or contempt, or a lack of taking this seriously. That is not the way we think."
A recall to fix improper repairs
The latest Mk2 Zafira recall is the second recent one for the model. It was recalled late last year after it was found that improper repairs to blower motor resistors and thermal fuses could lead to a fire.
Repairs were made, returning affected Zafiras' systems to standard by replacing resistors and inspecting blower motors and pollen filters. But Vauxhall's latest recall was requested to issue a further modification to prevent potential improper repairs from happening again.
Vauxhall said the change would make the system more robust by replacing soldered fuse resistors with wax fuse resistors, therefore reducing the chance of incorrect repair work.
It said that once the recall is complete, all affected vehicles will have a new wax fuse resistor and a new blower motor, along with new moulding at the base of the windscreen to prevent water ingress.
As with the first recall, the repair work is to be carried out free of charge. Owners of affected cars will be contacted by Vauxhall from August to arrange to have the work done.