BMW plant. Picture: SUPPLIED
BMW plant. Picture: SUPPLIED

German car makers BMW and Volkswagen (VW) are conducting global safety recalls on hundreds of thousands of vehicles, including many in SA.

BMW originally began a recall in 2013 relating to a battery connection that could lead to a loss of power in its previous generation 1 Series, 3 Series, X1 and Z4 models.

More than 750,000 models built between March 2007 and September 2011 were affected worldwide with the majority in the US, and more than 50,000 in SA. The company has now expanded the recall by an additional 400,000 worldwide bringing the total to 1,150,000 vehicles. A further 15,933 models are included in the wider recall in SA.

According to Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW SA: "The issue relates to the plug of the power distributor, which may degrade over time due to frictional corrosion and vehicle vibration. In certain conditions, this can affect the electrical connection to the car and may result in loss of power."

The expansion of the recall comes after BMW was heavily criticised in the UK for delays in actioning the initial recall campaign, eventually taking action in 2017. That implementation followed the death of a driver in December 2016, who was unable to avoid a BMW that had stopped in the road due to the car cutting out.

A new investigation by the BBC consumer programme Watchdog has discovered that the number of vehicles that should have been involved in the recall was much larger than BMW UK had stated, forcing BMW to include an additional 312,000 vehicles in the UK as part of a global recall expansion.

So far, BMW SA says it has attended to 90% of the vehicles involved in the original recall and will be contacting owners affected by the recall expansion in the next few weeks.

This week, VW issued a safety recall on its brand new 2018 Polo model. In a statement, VW said: "There is the possibility that in rare situations (for example, sudden lane changes with five passengers on board) and when the rear centre seat and the rear left seat are occupied at the same time, the left seat belt lock could be unintentionally released."

Christian Buhlmann, product communications manager at VW head office in Wolfsburg, Germany, confirmed to Business Day that 220,000 vehicles are affected worldwide, including those manufactured for export markets at the company’s plant in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape.

In a global statement, the company says that while the car is safe to drive, it advises its customers not to use the middle seat until a repair can be made.

Siyanga Madikizela, VW SA public relations manager, said 8,367 vehicles in the country are affected and that owners will be contacted to arrange for a repair. VW has advised that it is currently awaiting final validation of the repair solution before implementing it for both existing models and future production.