Fairfax Media first reported that several Volkswagen owners in Australia contacted them, saying they had experienced a sudden loss of power while driving, potentially causing a dangerous situation on the roads. The owners had allegedly spoken out after reading in the media about a coronial investigation into the death of a Volkswagen Golf driver on Melbourne’s Monash Freeway in 2011.
Melissa Ryan, 32, was killed two years ago when her Golf was struck from behind by a truck. The truck driver and Ryan’s family claimed her car slowed drastically for no obvious reason.
Volkswagen Australia initially denied any link between that accident and the claims made by other Volkswagen owners, saying that “there is … no correlation between the inquest, and the customer reports presented in the media regarding issues with diesel engines and DSG transmissions.
“The vehicle at the centre of the inquest is equipped with a petrol engine and a manual transmission. Neither of the customers interviewed for the story has a vehicle fitted with a DSG transmission either.”
While inadvertently admitting to issues with diesel engines and DSG transmissions, Volkswagen has still not made any recalls for those models over the issue. Although there has been DSG-related recalls in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan and the US, it is claimed those recalls affect Chinese-made gearboxes, not the European-made gearboxes fitted to Australian Volkswagens.
Despite resisting an official recall, however, Volkswagen Australia has now created a dedicated phone hotline, and initiated a free service campaign, to address owner’s concerns.
“We understand the recent coverage has caused some concern for our customers,” said Volkswagen Group Australia managing director John White (above), in a statement published on the company’s website. “We feel the best way to demonstrate our commitment [to safety] is with several immediate measures.
“If you are concerned about your Volkswagen vehicle due to this recent media coverage, for your peace of mind, Volkswagen Australia is offering a free inspection of your vehicle at any Volkswagen dealer throughout Australia.
“We have also set up a dedicated Customer Care hotline on 1800 504 076 (available Monday to Friday from 8:30am - 5:00pm AEST) and email at email@example.com. Alternatively you can visit your local Volkswagen dealer.”
White also says the company is “here to help” any customers or potential Volkswagen buyers who have questions regarding the issues at the centre of the widespread media coverage.
While the Department of Infrastructure and Transport undertake an investigation into whether Volkswagen vehicles have potentially dangerous defects, the Australian Automoblile Association (AAA) chief Andrew McKellar has called for a forthright response from Volkswagen Australia on the issue.
“If there is no evidence of safety defects, then Volkswagen should come out and say that,” he told Fairfax Media.
It is now believed that White is in talks with Volkswagen Germany about what the next step will be in addressing the safety concerns presented by the media, and reducing the effects of the damaging reports. Fairfax Media claims a source in Germany has said that an official safety recall is currently being prepared.