Vauxhall was too slow to react to concerns over a fire risk in its Zafira cars and showed a “reckless disregard for safety” in allowing customers to keep driving cars it knew were a fire risk, MPs have said.
The Transport Select Committee said the car giant had put the desire to protect its reputation first, along with commercial considerations, criticising that as “unacceptable and morally reprehensible”, though it also placed some blame on the government’s driver and vehicle standards agency for being too slow to act.
The Committee said the DVSA should have performed independent testing as part of initial investigations and should also have considerably more powers to recall vehicles.
Vauxhall recalled more than 234,000 of its Zafira B people carriers after numerous reports of them catching fire because of problems with the heating and ventilation systems.
The first report of a fire was noted by the car firm in 2009, and in 2014, internal concerns over a common thread in reports of fires was flagged.
Vauxhall did not launch an investigation into the fires until August 2015 though, when it logged 161 fires. It recalled over 220,000 of the vehicles in December 2015.
There was a second recall in May 2016.
Chair of the Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said the 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”.
As a result, drivers and their families were “needlessly put at risk”.
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 there were “lessons to be learned” from the Zafira fires and that it had changed its recall process “to ensure we complete recalls swiftly and minimise customer inconvenience”.