Vauxhall has admitted it is “fortunate” no one has been seriously injured after more than 300 Zafiras caught fire in recent years.
The fires had been caused by a problem in the heating and ventilation system, which the manufacturer had originally claimed it first became aware of in September 2014.
However, Vauxhall’s customer experience director Peter Hope told MPs last week that the first recorded fire had actually been in February 2009. It was a further six years before it decided to issue its first recall in December 2015.
Hope told the Transport Committee: “Often when fires are reported it is not clear , because the vehicle has been 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 to identify this as an issue.
“We definitely need to be more assertive and more determined in making sure those inspections happen.”
Pushed by MPs on how long it took the manufacturer to inform customers, he added: “I wish we could have given customers earlier notice.”
The manufacturer also acknowledged it had been lucky no one had been injured as a result of the fires. Charlie Klein, executive director for Global CO2 at General Motors, who was vice president of vehicle engineering in Europe at the time the issue came to light, said: “The fact that there have been no serious injuries is very fortunate.”
Vauxhall discovered that the improper repair of the blower motor resistor and its thermal fuse, which is designed to protect the blower motor system, had caused the problem.
It said that the repairs, which may have been conducted without the driver’s knowledge, could lead to overheating of the system’s electrical components and the potential for a fire.
An initial recall was instigated in December 2015, but following further discussions with the Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency (DVSA) additional action was agreed and a second recall involving almost 235,000 cars was announced in May.
Its latest recall will be staggered, with affected parts being replaced from this month (August).
The issue, according to Vauxhall, only affects Zafira B models, which were on sale between 2005 and 2014, not Zafira A or Zafira Tourer. The manufacturer says that Zafira B models with an electronic climate control (ECC) are also not affected.
Vauxhall said the issue will cost the company €40 million (£33.6m), but Hope said: “We don’t have current plans to compensate customers for the inconvenience and the worry they have gone through this process. Our focus has to be on making these cars safe first.”