Volkswagen has a reputation as the car company that makes German engineered vehicles affordable. Despite that standing, the firm is not without issues. In 2015, the company admitted it deliberately programmed some car systems to get around emission control regulations. Eleven million vehicles wound up recalled worldwide.
Now regulators appear to have another VW unit in the crosshairs, and the situation represents what the title character in "The King and I" might describe as a "puzzlement."
The vehicle in question is the Tiguan SUV. On the one hand, the website rollingout.com lists the Tiguan as one of the top five crossovers on the market in the U.S. for travel in 2018. On the other hand, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the Tiguan under intense investigation stemming from concerns about possibly defective driver seat belts.
NHTSA also reports it's concerned about evidence that the driver's door can unlatch and open in a side-impact collision. In a formal posting about the concern, the agency says, "a door opening during a side-impact crash increases the likelihood of occupant ejection."
How issues came to light
Earlier in July, NHTSA stepped up its probe of the Tiguan. To justify its move, NHTSA points to data collected from various crash tests. The driver's door test involved simulating a collision with a vehicle moving at nearly 40 mph.
The seat belt issue came to light separately. Investigators conducted two tests at different times and in different locations. These involved full frontal impacts at 35 mph into a fixed barrier with standard crash dummies in the seat. In both cases, the belt tore apart at the junction where it clips into the buckle; not because of any cuts or abrasions in the belt fabric, but because of opposite forces pulling along the length of the belt.
After the collection of the latest data, NHTSA opened an Engineering Analysis, moving the Tiguan one step closer to a possible recall.
Volkswagen says it's cooperating in the probe, but challenges the crash test findings. At the same time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry-funded testing group, says belt failures are rare and that the Tiguan received its top ratings. Still, consumer advocates say concerns are such that further investigation is worthwhile.
There are no recorded reports of collisions, injuries or deaths involving these issues at this point. And if defects can be identified and corrected before that happens, so much the better.