Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

VW brings forward recall of NZ cars

Melissa Ryan was killed when a truck slammed into the back of her manual Golf GTI on a Melbourne highway in 2011. Photo / Supplied
Melissa Ryan was killed when a truck slammed into the back of her manual Golf GTI on a Melbourne highway in 2011. Photo / Supplied

Volkswagen has brought forward a recall of more than 2500 cars in New Zealand after mounting pressure to address reliability issues.

It follows two weeks of negative press coverage in Australia over a coroner's inquest into the death of 32-year-old Melissa Ryan, who was killed when a truck slammed into the back of her manual Golf GTI in 2011.

The car appeared to decelerate suddenly before the fatal crash on a Melbourne highway - a problem other Volkswagen owners have since spoken out about, including some in New Zealand.

Today's recall does not cover manual cars like Ms Ryan's, but does cover several models which use Volkswagen's seven-speed automatic direct shift gearbox (DSG) system.

The carmaker has already recalled about 475,000 vehicles with the DSG system in China and Japan due to a potential fault which could cause the cars to speed up or slow down.

Volkswagen New Zealand general manager Tom Ruddenklau said the recall had been scheduled for September, but had been brought forward following discussions with the head office in Germany.

"I think it's fair to say the media has probably accelerated the importance of our markets from the factory, that's for sure."

Mr Ruddenklau said the recall would affect about 2500 cars built between June 2008 and September 2011. The company was still working to determine how many used imports would be affected.

"This is a voluntary recall as a precautionary measure to improve the reliability of the DSG gearbox. It's really important to note that new Volkswagens that are currently being sold are not affected by this campaign."

Mr Ruddenklau stressed the recall was not a safety campaign.

"What I don't want to do is go into a whole lot of technical details - the really important thing is that our customers feel safe and they've got peace of mind that Volkswagen is standing behind them."

The recall would mostly affect the company's popular Golf and Polo hatchback models, as well as some Jetta, Passat and Caddy models.

Mr Ruddenklau said the company would also extend the warranties on all DSG gearboxes - not just the seven-speed model affected by the recall - from three to five years.

"We're also offering a free health check for any customer who's got any safety worries or concerns about anything on their Volkswagen."

Car review website dogandlemon.com editor Clive Matthew-Wilson said the problems went beyond the issues covered by the company's service campaign.

"Volkswagen needs to take ownership of these problems, and fix them. Otherwise they are risking peoples' lives."

He pointed to the case of a 2006 Volkswagen Golf which suddenly lost power just over three weeks ago.

Havelock North medical practice manager Julia MacCallum said she was driving alone between Taupo and Auckland when the incident happened.

"About 3km south of Putaruru, my car lost power. A huge truck was speeding up towards me from behind and I only just managed to pull over to get out of its way.

"I am still stressed thinking about what could have happened."

Ms MacCallum said she had the car towed back to the dealers who sold her the car two years ago.

"They have told me my high pressure fuel pump has ceased working. I could be facing up to $5000 in repairs."

Mr Ruddenklau said any customer with any concerns about any Volkswagen could make use of the free checks.

He said Volkswagen customers with questions about the recall could get in touch via the website at www.volkswagen.co.nz

- APNZ

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