Shanghai - Volkswagen said Wednesday it would recall 384,181 vehicles in China over gearbox defects, marking the German auto giant's biggest ever recall in the world's largest auto market.
The recall came after Chinese state television alleged in an annual corporate malpractice programme that Volkswagen had used substandard gearboxes in some models, causing acceleration problems and accidents.
In a company statement, Volkswagen said an electronic malfunction could cause its cars to lose power while being driven.
“In isolated cases, an electronic malfunction in the control unit or a lack of oil pressure inside the gearbox mechatronics may result in a power interruption,” it said. Steering and braking would not be impacted, it added.
A spokesman for Volkswagen in China said the decision to recall was not initiated by the television programme, and the company had already been monitoring the issue.
“We monitored it and so it was obvious that we wanted to decide to recall,” said Christoph Ludewig of Volkswagen (China) Investment Co.
It was the largest recall for Volkswagen in the country, he said.
Volkswagen, which is Europe's biggest carmaker, said last week it planned to open seven more factories in China. It currently has two passenger vehicle production joint ventures with China's SAIC Motor and FAW Group.
The vehicles affected include both imported models such as the Audi A3 and domestically-made ones, among them the Magotan and Passat, said the Chinese government's quality watchdog, which on Saturday had ordered the recall.
The move followed a year-long investigation, it added, and the cars involved came off the assembly line between December 2008 and early this month.
Volkswagen said it would upgrade software and replace components in the gearbox of affected vehicles for free.
In another case involving a foreign auto maker, a venture of Japan's Toyota last year recalled 706,816 vehicles in China to fix faulty power window switches, the Chinese government has said.
China is hugely important to foreign car firms as the world's biggest auto market. The country's auto sales rose 4.3 percent year-on-year to 19.31 million vehicles in 2012. - Sapa-AFP