Total recall

Volkswagen’s embarrassing product recall has spread. Wheels can confirm that VW company cousins Audi and Skoda will have to recall thousands of vehicles due to a gearbox problem. Volkswagen announced 25,928 of its vehicles will be recalled and now Skoda says 1746 of its vehicles will also be affected, with Audi admitting too that a recall will be issued for A1 and A3 1.4 and 1.8 turbo petrol models from July 2008-July 2011.

It’s the type of nightmare that keeps car company PR execs awake at night – somebody dies in one of your vehicles and then your customers turn on you like cage full of monkeys that haven’t been fed in a week. That’s what Volkswagen Australia is going through right now with it issuing a recall of almost 26,000 of its vehicles after an onslaught of complaints from VW owners about their cars. The outrage follows the death of a Melbourne woman Melissa Ryan in 2008 who, while driving her Golf, experienced a loss of power resulting in a collision with a truck.

The complaints centre around Volkswagen’s DSG transmission (dual-clutch gearbox). During the past weeks Fairfax readers have been writing into The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age with their accounts and the papers in turn have championed the case. This led to Volkswagen pulling its advertising from the publications. Other news outlets began to be flooded by similar complaints from angry Volkswagen owners. Now in an almost admission of guilt Volkswagen announced the recall of Golf, Jetta, Polo and Caddys built from June 2008 –September 2011 with 7-speed DSG transmissions.

The thing is, the Golf that Ryan was driving at the time of her death had a manual transmission. It’s a good gearbox, and the reason for the sudden loss of power in Ryan’s car still has not been determined. Nonetheless the incident has been a catalyst in the remedy of VWs older DSG, which for years has been troubling us and our own readers, too with its at times jolty and unrefined behaviour. The new DSG appears to have had those bug ironed out, though.

General Manager of PR for Volkswagen Karl Gehling says that he can’t comment on the events surrounding Ryan’s death as the inquest has not been concluded. In terms of the DSG issue he did state: “In isolated cases, an electronic malfunction in the control unit inside the gearbox mechatronics may result in a power interruption. We will be contacting the customers affected.”

But there’s more to this story. The same DSG gearbox is found in Skodas and Audis (both part of the Volkswagen group).

When asked if the DSG problem affects Skoda Gehling says: “Yes, 1746 of them – Octavias and Superbs.”

And Audi? We spoke to Audi’s General Manager of Corporate Communications Anna Burgdorf who tells us there will be Audis affected, too.

“We will also conduct a voluntary recall of the A1 and A3 vehicles - the 1.4 and 1.8 TFS models built between July 2008 and July 2011,” Burgdorf says.

“The voluntary recall affects the DQ200 transmission and certain Audi vehicles have this transmission. We will follow suit with our sister company and we will also conduct a voluntary recall of these vehicles. Our customers are our greatest concern.”

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