Vauxhall admits Zafira fires started in 2009

Updated: 


British car manufacturer Vauxhall has confirmed it was aware of Zafira models catching fire five years before it started investigating the problem.

A hearing with the Commons transport select committee, Vauxhall's director of corporate strategy, Peter Hope, and Charles Klein, General Motor's engineering executive director, were accused of 'complete contempt' by SNP MP Stewart McDonald over the lack of immediate action taken by the company.

McDonald said: "What is it with the car industry? It seems to treat its customers with complete contempt - complete contempt - because you know people will keep on buying cars because they need them.

"This isn't good enough. You knew the car wasn't safe and you sat on your hands for so long."

When asked about the first recorded case, Hope said: "The incident can clearly be attributed to the heating and ventilation system fire, that we are talking about here, on 11 February 2009."

According to campaigners, over 300 Vauxhall Zafiras have caught fire, with figures from the London Fire Brigade showing they had attended 120 Zafira fires since 2013.

When asked by the committee chairwoman Louise Ellman why the company waited until 2014 to begin investigations into the problem, Hope said: "Often when fires are reported (the cause is) not clear – either because the vehicles themselves are totally destroyed or because we don't have access to the vehicle to inspect it.

"For those vehicles prior to 2014, we didn't have enough evidence from the reporting system that we had to identify this as an issue that we could take action with."

Hope apologised, saying: "For customers, either ones who have experienced a fire, which is enormously traumatic for them and their family, or those customers who have had the inconvenience, Vauxhall and I are truly sorry for that."

Written by Jack Healy