Audi takes heat for dismissive handling of 'burning car' claims

Audi takes heat for dismissive handling of 'burning car' claims.
Audi takes heat for dismissive handling of 'burning car' claims.
Image: 123RF/xxlphoto

Audi SA is taking heat from agitated consumers after a number of Audi owners have taken to social media to document their cars going up in flames‚ and accuse the manufacturer of not responding appropriately.

That Audi SA notified affected owners of a “worldwide preventative campaign” to replace the heater element in certain models last Wednesday‚ to prevent fire‚ has served to add fuel to the fire.

A day later‚ yet another Audi was ablaze on a roadside - the M41 in Umhlanga - lighting up Twitter. Mo (@MsLishia) tweeted: “Audi South Africa‚ is there any statement on the growing number of Audi cars bursting into fire every other day?”

The manufacturer responded: “It is incorrect to assume that the fire cases on social media are related to each other.

“All legitimate fire cases which we are aware of and can relate back to our official records‚ are unique‚ separate and isolated in their nature.

“Each case which had occurred in the past‚ had been managed separately with its own investigation‚ findings and conclusions behind them.

“It would be incorrect to assume any sort of relationship between the incidents.

“In all examples‚ Audi has followed an extensive fire safety process in looking into the cases and has provided relevant assistance options to each customer in line with our company policies and guidelines.”

The “Audis burning” story is to a large extent being driven on social media by Capetonian Themba Mabasa‚ who has gone head-on with Audi South Africa since his three-year-old Audi TT burnt out completely during a long road trip from Cape Town to Limpopo on the Easter weekend.

But he’s not alone.

Prominent KwaZulu-Natal Midlands chef Alex Poltera also took to social media armed with photos and a video after his Audi Q3 caught fire in June.

“Here is my Audi Q3‚” he tweeted. “The report from Audi was inconclusive‚ and they have subsequently 'washed their hands' of me. Just a friendly warning to be aware and careful. This is becoming a frequent trait of what used to be a good brand.”

Audi SA’s PR manager Tashta Bhana said the various Audi fire-related cases “creating conversation” on social media originated from the Mabasa case.

“We offered many different proposals to Mr Mabasa and after he directly threatened to create a PR crisis around the issue on social media‚ we have let it run its course‚” she said.

“We cannot provide comment on the fire incident which occurred on the M41 in Durban last week; once we have more information on the context of the incident and what exactly had happened‚ we will investigate further.”

It was also incorrect to “assume” that the Audi fire cases featuring on social media were related to the “worldwide preventative campaign” for the heater element replacement‚ Bhana said.

“This campaign is a safety measure to proactively replace the part which may become blocked with deposits from the cooling system on certain vehicles‚” she said.

The models affected are the Audi A4‚ A5‚ A6 and Q5 with the 2.0l TFSI engine‚ produced between 2012 and 2017 - about 600 cars in all.

“It is possible that the auxiliary heater element in the air-conditioning unit may fail. In rare cases this could lead to smoulder damage or even fire.”

But there had also been no fire-related incidents relating to this campaign in South Africa‚ Bhana said.

“The campaign is merely a preventative measure in terms of a part replacement and we are confident that there should be no public concern.”

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