A leading product liability lawyer has called on Vauxhall to release all the information it has on its Zafira models, after it was revealed that the motor manufacturer first recorded one of the cars bursting into flames in 2009, several years before owners were contacted over the potential for a fire occurring.
The revelation came at the Commons' Transport Select Committee, which took place earlier this month on 19 July 2016, from Peter Hope, director of customer experience and corporate strategy at Vauxhall.
He told the committee that the company had first recorded a case of a Zafira suspected of catching fire, due to a problem with its heating and ventilation system, in February 2009.
Jill Paterson from the consumer law and product safety group at Leigh Day said she was pleased that Vauxall had written to all 234,938 Vauxhall Zafira B owners ahead of a recall but said she remained concerned that fresh details were still coming to light.
Ms Paterson said: “It is concerning that the fact that the first fire reported by Vauxhall in relation to one of their Zafira B models was seven years ago yet it appears Vauxhall waited until 2014 before alerting owners of the risk.
“Manufacturers of all products are under an obligation, through law, to ensure that their products are safe for consumers and a moral duty to tell their customers when things aren’t right.
“Vauxhall must now release all the information it has on the Zafira and ensure that all affected models are safe.”
In today’s hearing the committee chair Louise Ellman asked Mr Hope why Vauxhall waited until 2014 before a full investigation was carried out, he replied: "Often when fires are reported [the cause is] not clear - either because the vehicles themselves are 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 that we had to identify this as an issue that we could take action with.
"From 2014 onwards, there was a recognition of a pattern and that was then investigated extensively with our engineers."
Committee member Stewart Malcolm McDonald told the Vauxhall director: "This isn't good enough. You knew the car wasn't safe and you sat on your hands for so long."
The SNP MP described the company's response as "wholly inadequate", and - citing the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal - asked Mr Hope why the car industry "seems to treat its customers with complete contempt".
In his response, Mr Hope said: "There are always areas of any manufacturer's actions where you think 'I would have loved to have either known that earlier or taken action earlier.
"But we didn't at that stage. Is that acceptable, is that something I feel happy with? No.
"But what I'm really trying to assure you is that it is never about casualness or contempt or a lack of taking this seriously. That is not the way we think."
Figures released in May by London Fire Brigade (LFB) show it has attended 120 Zafira fires since 2013, including 14 this year..