Volkswagen faces nationwide protests in China after car owners were unsatisfied with its handling of a recall to fix a possible suspension defect.
The automaker will call back 581,090 New Sagitar (Jetta in other markets) and Beetle vehicles in its biggest market to affix metal plates to the rear torsion crank axle, which will stabilise the vehicles and emit warning noises in case of cracks, it said this month. The axle is safe and installing the metal inlays is like “providing a double assurance,” Soh Weiming, Volkswagen China’s executive president, said.
A small number of Beetle units are affected in SA, it was confirmed. Local Jetta models are unaffected.
Unconvinced car owners protested yesterday at Volkswagen dealerships in major Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. Some held banners condemning Volkswagen for being “unconscionable” and others distributed flyers describing their fear of driving the cars. A poster circulating on Tencent Holdings’s QQ social-media service urged Sagitar owners to stage another round of protests in 100 cities on November 9.
“It’s like a ticking time bomb,” said Dai Dushi, a 36-year-old businessman who took part in the protest at a Shanghai dealership yesterday. “I’m constantly afraid the rear suspension will break and my family and I will get hurt, especially when we are traveling at high speeds.”
The car owners demanded the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker replace the rear suspension or refund buyers.
In rare cases, it is possible that a rear-side or rear-end impact results in bending or breakage of the of the rear torsion crank axle, Volkswagen said in an e-mail on October 26. Drivers have no reason to worry about the bending or breaking of the axle if a vehicle doesn’t experience such an impact, it said.
Larissa Braun, a Volkswagen China spokeswoman, didn’t pick up a call to her office and mobile phones and didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Besides installing the metal plates in affected vehicles, Volkswagen will offer a 10-year guarantee as a goodwill gesture to fix any rear torsion crack axle damaged in New Sagitar and Beetle cars included in the recall, it said. The company apologised for the recall, which will begin in February.
A group of Volkswagen owners, questioning the safety of existing suspension in their vehicles, enlisted Beijing-based Jingsh Law Firm to represent them. Among the clients, 53 said the rear suspension of their New Sagitar cars is out of shape, or has peeling or cracked paint, Jingsh said.
Most Volkswagen cars that have problems with rear suspension weren’t involved in accidents or hadn’t been hit as the company described, Jingsh, which represents at least 340 New Sagitar users, Jingsh said in the statement.
“Our clients found Volkswagen’s explanation unacceptable,” Jingsh said in an e-mail yesterday. Volkswagen also is recalling cars in the US to fix the same suspension issue, for a total of 1.02 million vehicles in the two countries.
Its latest recall in China comes two months after consumer complaints prompted the nation’s quality inspector to begin an investigation. In March 2013, the automaker called back 384,181 vehicles in the country to replace defective gearboxes, after state broadcaster China Central Television featured owner complaints about cars equipped with Volkswagen’s proprietary gearbox technology.