In Depth

Volkswagen recalls 75,000 cars over ‘potentially lethal’ seatbelts: are you affected?

German car giant used plastic cable ties to secure faulty belts on three new models

Volkswagen is recalling thousands of its VW Polo, Seat Ibiza and Arona cars after a consumer watchdog warned that a serious seatbelt flaw uncovered earlier this year had not been rectified to an acceptable standard.

Investigators from Which?, the consumer website, found the German car giant had only offered a temporary fix for a defect on its Polo hatchback described as “potentially lethal”. The same fault was also found on its Ibiza and Arona models from VW’s Spanish subsidiary Seat.

The fault, which was first exposed in May in a test drive of all three models carried out by the Finnish car magazine Tekniikan Maailma, concerns the rear middle seat belts on affected models purchased since then. These could unbuckle in the event of an accident, according to Which?

VW reportedly advised customers not to use the rear middle seats and asked them to sign a disclaimer when purchasing a potentially defective car.

According to the financial news website This Is Money, the car company contacted 12,000 customers in May requesting permission to install a temporary fix involving cable ties designed to secure the seatbelt in place. 

Despite the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) originally rejecting the solution, VW sold a further 55,000 examples of the models with defective seatbelts, according to the website.

A permanent solution is now being offered.

In an interview with the BBC, a VW spokesperson said the carmaker decided to continue sales of the three faulty cars due to the “limited circumstances in which the seatbelt can (in the test conditions) come unbuckled, and the employment of the interim fix.” The spokesperson also said that as specific warnings were provided to users there was “no materially increased risk.”

So far nobody has been injured because of the fault.

However, Alex Neill of Which? told the broadcaster that VW’s decision to continue sales in spite of the seatbelt fault put “substantially more drivers, as well as their passengers, at risk.” 

Are you affected?

Customers who bought a VW Polo, a Seat Ibiza or Arona from May this year may be driving a car with a faulty seatbelt. 

According to the Daily Express, VW is contacting affected owners to arrange for their cars to be repaired permanently and free of charge. 

Car owners unsure if their vehicle is one of the affected models can use the Government’s recall checker here. You’ll need your vehicle’s number plate to use the service.

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