Opel fires raise calls for national vehicle recall database

Short-circuiting electrics blamed for spate of fires breaking out in Corsa models

Opel may have to issue a recall for Corsa D models built between 2006 and 2014 due to a  possible fire risk

Opel may have to issue a recall for Corsa D models built between 2006 and 2014 due to a possible fire risk

 

There are calls for the establishment of a national vehicle database on recalls, both here and in the UK, following a spate of fires involving Opel and Vauxhall Corsas.

Opel may have to issue a recall for Corsa D models built between 2006 and 2014 for possible fire risk. If so, it will be the third fire-related recall for Opel models following last year’s Zafira B recall which involved 220,000 cars across Europe and a smaller recall for specific 1.4 Turbo Black Edition Corsa models which was rolled out earlier this year.

According to Opel Ireland, the fire issue has currently not affected any models sold in Ireland, nor has it received any complaints or concerns from customers about their cars.

The 1.4 Turbo engine has never been a big seller in the Corsa in Ireland, so that specific recall was not significant here, but if there is a fire risk to other models then Irish cars could be swept up.

Opel has issued a note to all its dealers to be especially vigilant about the issue and to report any concerns from customers to head office immediately.

The problem was highlighted by the BBC on its Watchdog programme, which said it had heard from seven Corsa D owners, three of whom had specifically owned the 1.4 Turbo model.

According to Opel, the fire risk occurs when leaking rain seals allow water to get into the car’s electrical system, which can then short circuit and is at risk of starting a fire. That is quite different to the issue which affected the Zafira, which was traced to incorrect repairs of the heating and ventilation system.

Irish consumers

Michael Rochford, managing director of car history expert Motorcheck, said such a database would also be of use to Irish consumers.

“Currently in the UK we are aware that it is now possible to acquire specific recall data by individual VIN [vehicle identification number]. Motorcheck would certainly be in favour of the establishment of a reliable national database on recalls in Ireland similar to the current situation in the UK,” Rochford told The Irish Times.

“Manufacturers all have access to which vehicles on their fleets are subject to recalls; if this data was shared with the Department of Transport in Shannon, these could be flagged on the National Vehicle and Driver File and made available via online services.

“Currently Motorcheck publishes such data by matching makes, models and versions of vehicles to European-wide recall data, but a service which was tied to the individual VIN of the vehicle would be more useful. It would also benefit the manufacturer since awareness of unresolved recall issues by a used car purchaser is yet another reason to bring your vehicle back to a main dealer to be seen to.”

GM statement

Motors

“Earlier this year we identified a potential fire-related issue with a specific Corsa D variant equipped with the 1.4 Turbo petrol engine. A safety recall to address this issue was initiated in April 2016 for the vehicles affected.

“When customers report a fire to us, we explain that an inspection may be necessary but that we need the permission of their insurance company before we can proceed. This avoids the risk of the customer’s insurance policy being invalidated.

“Our preference is to conduct a joint investigation with the customer’s insurer but for a variety of reasons this is not always possible. For example, in some cases the insurance company has already conducted an investigation; in other cases the vehicle may have already been scrapped.

“Following the Zafira B issue we strengthened our processes but even so it is not always possible to arrange an inspection. When an inspection is possible the destructive nature of fire can make the process of identifying a pattern of fires with a common root cause very challenging.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind that manufacturers frequently do not get to hear about fires in their vehicles. We found with Zafira B, for example, that many cases only emerged after media reports in October 2015. Some of these dated back several years.

“Better access to vehicle fire data could help manufacturers with early detection of safety issues. We are therefore working through our industry body to understand how manufacturers can gain access to data in order to build a more complete picture of potential issues.”