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Vauxhall showed ‘a reckless disregard for safety’ of drivers over vehicle fires, say MPs

Vauxhall showed ‘a reckless disregard for safety’ of drivers over vehicle fires, say MPs

Vauxhall was too slow to begin a full investigation into fires affecting its Zafira B models and too quick to attribute them to improper and unauthorised repair, according to MPs on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.  

In a report following its own investigation of the fires, the MPs have also called for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to force manufacturers to act in place of the current voluntary vehicle recall Code of Practice with prosecution a possibility.  

In 2015, Vauxhall’s Zafira B model became a “cause for concern” when a distinctive pattern of fires was identified. Some of the fires - in February 2017 Vauxhall confirmed that 287 Zafira B fires had been reported to it - were serious enough to destroy entire vehicles and cause damage to the surrounding environment.
 

Although the Model B Zafira was no longer on the market by the time Vauxhall became aware of the fires, the company sold more than 230,000 Model B Zafiras with manual or no air conditioning between 2005 and 2014.  

The MPs’ report, ‘Vauxhall Zafira Fires’, says that the decision to continue to let people drive affected cars, once the manufacturer knew that vehicles already recalled still caught fire, amounted to a “reckless disregard for safety”.
 

The DVSA should have taken action more quickly, said the report. The Committee was also critical of the decision not to perform independent testing as part of initial investigations.   

However, said the MPs, more must now be done to ensure that the DVSA is able to take proportionate and effective enforcement action to ensure vehicle safety.  

The current Code-based approach should be backed up by a credible threat of prosecution for a failure to comply with an instruction from the DVSA, according to the report. The Committee also called on the DVSA to seek assurances from Vauxhall that it had put robust processes and systems in place to deal with potential defects.  

The Committee concluded that, as well as ensuring vehicles were safe to drive, the Department for Transport had a role to play in maintaining public confidence in any recall announced by a manufacturer. The Department could not rely on manufacturers doing the right thing voluntarily, said the MPs.  

Committee chairman Louise Ellman 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.  

“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.  
“Despite Vauxhall blaming the fires on unauthorised repair by third parties, no effort was made to find out where this may have taken place. The DVSA should consider how information to prevent improper and dangerous repairs can be collated for future vehicle safety issues.  

“Finally, our inquiry exposed gaps in the system for identifying potential safety defects and dangerous repair practices. Only a small proportion of Zafira fires were reported to either the DVSA or Vauxhall.  Following a Facebook campaign and use of other media, the real story emerged. More needs to be done by motor manufacturers, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the Retail Motor Industry Federation and its associations, relevant trade associations, insurers and others to encourage defect reporting.”