Axle problems in China could become “dangerous” for Volkswagen

Sagitar - Picture courtesy Volkswagen

GM has problems with keys, Honda (among others) with Takata airbags, Volkswagen is troubled by axles. More than a million cars were recalled a few weeks ago in North America and China, after hundreds of axles broke in the Sagitar, one of the many versions of the Jetta in China. What irks Chinese customers, and led to demonstrations in front of Volkswagen dealerships in the Middle Kingdom: No new axle is mounted when the car is in the shop. “If the axle is damaged, the shops replace identical parts,” Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports. In addition, pieces of sheet metal are mounted , “which don’t stabilize the axle, but will make a loud rattle in case of an impending damage,” as the German car magazine reports. Volkswagen swears on a stack of service manuals that the axle is fine, and that it is only prone to breaking if the car has been in a prior accident. Many Chinese customers don’t buy it, and demand a new rear suspension. Volkswagen in the meantime has dumped the problematic axle in China, and is selling new Sagitars with a better multi-link independent rear suspension. Volkswagen also dumped Sagitars with the problematic axle on the market en masse.

“Soon after receiving complaints regarding the non-independent torsion beam suspensions used in the Sagitar, FAW-VW started outfitting new models with independent multi-link suspensions in May,” writes Gasgoo. There was no stop sales order for inventories with the troubled axe, in the contrary. Says Gasgoo:

“In order to help maintain sales, dealerships released several sales promotions reaching as high as 30,000 RMB ($4,883) in order to liquidate inventories. Sagitars bought using cash were eligible for savings up to 15,000 RMB ($2,442). Many dealerships have reported that their inventories are already cleared.”

According to the Chinese site, the aggressive discounts propelled the old-axle Sagitar from #8 in January to #2 in February on the Chinese sales charts. In September and October, the car with the new axle was back down to #4. Quality regulators in China started a new investigation in the matter and asked Volkswagen for documentation about the problems. According to AMS, the matter could become “dangerous for Volkswagen. Its China business amounts to a quarter of its global revenue, and a third of its profits.”