Volkswagen says no link between circumstances of Melissa Ryan’s death and new reports of manual cars losing power – ABC Online

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2016


January 31, 2016 23:17:33

More Volkswagen drivers say they were left angry and scared after their cars suddenly lost power while they were driving them.

They decided to come forward after media coverage about the coronial inquest of Melissa Ryan, who died at the wheel of her manual VW Golf in 2011.

Ms Ryan, 32, was killed when her car slowed suddenly on a Melbourne freeway and a truck ran up the back of the vehicle.

The coroner cleared the car of any fault, but not before writing to Volkswagen Australia to ask if it had ever received complaints about sudden deceleration in its manual cars from January 2010 until the date of the inquest.

The company gave written assurances that it had not received “any such complaints”.

However, one VW driver disagrees.

“When it was reported that she [Ms Ryan] lost power on the freeway, I thought that’s exactly what happened to us,” said Ray Matters.

“I just felt so sad for her because she was on a freeway. We were lucky, on a quiet street, but that could have been us.”

Mr Matters’ manual VW Polo was repaired under warranty, with the service report stating the car “looses power”.

Volkswagen has responded to a series of questions from the ABC, and said Mr Matters car was repaired under the 24V9 campaign and had no relevance to Ms Ryan’s case.

“We urge you to exercise significant caution when referring to the reported issues with the vehicles you have referred to us of ‘losing power’ or ‘lacking power under acceleration’ and seeking to make a correlation with references in the inquest report of Coroner Heather Spooner (Ref 0418/2011) of 15 November 2013 to ‘sudden deceleration’.

“These are two completely different concepts and bear no correlation to each other.”

After the Ryan inquest, Volkswagen recalled its direct shift gearbox cars due to sudden deceleration issues, but it has always maintained there were no problems with manual cars, such as the Golf Ms Ryan was driving.

Driver Sally Chapman’s Golf twice lost power and was repaired under warranty both times.

“It was a love affair with this car until, in 2011, the car lost power in the middle of peak-hour traffic,” Ms Chapman said.

“Suddenly, the car lost power; I put my foot on the accelerator, there was nothing. It frightened me.”

Volkswagen has described the repairs to Ms Chapman’s vehicle as “relatively minor in nature”.

“While noting only one piston was faulty, all four were replaced on the recommendation of VGA Technical Department.”

Former VW owner Preston Clothier wrote a letter to a Sydney Volkswagen dealership to complain after his manual Volkswagen Polo lost power.

“It happened two or three times, it happened in quick succession, and that’s why it became a bit of an emergency because we basically didn’t have any use of the car,” he said.

“Fortunately, I was only going at 50 or 60 kilometres an hour on local roads, so I was able to get the car to a stop, pull off and then try and figure out what was going on.

“I wrote a detailed complaint to the company via their website and no reply ever came.”

The car Ms Ryan was driving was tested by a Volkswagen team in Germany, and the company said no fault was found with the car.

The Coroner cleared the car of any fault, instead suggesting Ms Ryan may have been distracted because she was speaking on her hands-free phone.

Evidence given to coroner entirely accurate: Volkswagen

The ABC received a written response to questions about Volkswagen’s manual cars.

“We would like to reiterate — the issues in the vehicles you referred to us do not in any way relate to the questions posed to VGA by the Coroner in 2013. VGA would encourage caution before such a link were made,” Volkswagen said.

“Neither VGA nor the Department of Infrastructure and Transport (as per their evidence) regard ‘lacking power under acceleration’ or ‘experienced a loss of speed’ as ‘sudden or unexpected deceleration or loss of power’.

“Having examined the records of the vehicles you referred to us, we can identify nothing in those reports that would suggest the evidence provided to the Coroner was anything other than entirely accurate.

“Indeed, it may be worth your considering the references in the inquest report by Ms Judith Zielke of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport when referring to complaints received by the Department.

“Ms Zielke clearly states that the single report of a Volkswagen Eos that had “experienced a loss of speed and vibration … leading to pistons being replaced” … “did not relate to unexpected deceleration or loss of power”.”

Court denies access to Volkswagen correspondence

The ABC requested access to all communication between the Coroner’s Court of Victoria and Volkswagen.

The Coroner’s Court told the ABC: “The correspondence you refer to took place after the May 2013 inquest, therefore, was not in the inquest brief.”

A spokeswoman said it was “not the court’s practice to release inter-party communications between legal representatives”.

Victoria’s Attorney General has rejected a request from the family for a judicial review of the inquest.

Ms Ryan’s family appealed to the Victorian Attorney-General to conduct an independent review of the information supplied by Volkswagen to the inquest, after it was revealed the company had lied to consumers and authorities about its emissions cheating software.

Brand analyst Michel Hogan said an enormous amount of reputational damage had been done to Volkswagen by the emissions-cheating scandal.

“From the general media lens, Volkswagen’s reputation is very much one of being tarnished,” Ms Hogan said.

“I think that given that these broader questions have been raised about Volkswagen and their level of truthfulness when they’ve had a major issue happen, it certainly raises a few flags.

“If I was in their position I might be asking a few questions too, but whether they’re founded or not, I think that’s certainly for others to dig into.”





First posted

January 31, 2016 19:26:38


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