Tests undertaken by Finnish magazineÂ Tekniikan Maailma last May found that when certain models were carrying five passengers on the three back seats, changing lanes at speed caused the middle seatbelt buckle to push on the buckle on the left, causing it to release.
“Itâ€™s shocking that VW and Seat are selling thousands of cars that they know have a serious safety issue but donâ€™t yet have a proper fix for”
The buckles are at different heights to make them easier to use, which means the central buckle is higher than the one for use in the back-left seat.
The findings have prompted fears that passengers may not be protected in the event of a crash. Volkswagen confirmed the technical issue to i, but added all models involved have been “legally homologated and safe to drive” and said the fault is only a possibility “in extremely rare situations”.
Thousands of cars affected
Which? said the problem affects more than 68,000 Polo and Seat cars in the UK. The VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, and Seat Arona are the models listed.
Since the discovery was made, Which? said the Volkswagen Group has recalled around 12,000 new Polos and thousands of Seat Ibizas and Aronas to install a temporary fix.
But Which? said the company has continued to sell new cars with the same known fault, despite recalling the same vehicles earlier in the year. It’s an issue the company has confirmed it won’t be able to permanently resolve until November.
The Volkswagen Group said it expects retailers to warn buyers about the problem before they make a purchase. The company told Which? people will be given a warning sticker ‘in due course’ to attach to their dashboard.
Which? said it is unacceptable that Volkswagen Group is selling cars with a known safety fault.
Managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill, said: “Itâ€™s shocking that VW and Seat are selling thousands of cars that they know have a serious safety issue but donâ€™t yet have a proper fix for.
“Volkswagen Group should not be selling these potentially dangerous vehicles at all. Supplying a warning sticker is a startlingly inadequate response to a fault which is putting lives at risk.
“Itâ€™s another example of how the current car recall system is failing to protect people. The DVSA must be given the powers it needs to hold manufacturers to account.”
Volkswagen Group said: “Volkswagen and Seat have confirmed a technical issue on the new Polo, Ibiza and Arona (model year 2018). There is the possibility that in extremely rare situations (e.g. sudden, abrupt lane changes with five occupants on board) the left rear seat belt lock could be unintentionally released.
“At Volkswagen and SEAT safety remains a top priority and the brands have already identified a technical solution: a redesigned belt lock fixture, which will prevent this happening.
“The Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza and SEAT Arona are legally homologated and safe to drive; however the brands advise their customers not to use the middle seat of affected vehicles until they are equipped with the redesigned belt lock fixture.”
The company added customers have already received a letter informing them of the situation and saidÂ the rear middle seat position must not be occupied until the permanent measure has been applied.
Which? said the current system designed to hold manufacturers to account places too much reliance on them to decide what they think is “safe” and “unsafe”. It has called for theÂ Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to be given more power.
Currently, enforcement powers sit withÂ Trading Standards.