Volkswagen recalling nearly 700K cars for rollaway risk

Volkswagen is recalling more than 679,000 Golf, Jetta, and Beetle models to address a defect that could cause the cars to unexpectedly roll away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last week.

The defect is in the shift lever assembly. A contaminated switch can trick the vehicles’ on-board computers into believing they are in park rather than drive or reverse, allowing the key to be removed from the ignition when it would otherwise remain locked in place. If the handbrake is not set, the vehicle can potentially roll away when the driver exits.

The recall campaign covers the 2015-2019 GTI, 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 Golf, 2012-2019 Beetle and Beetle Convertible, 2017-2019 Golf SportWagen and 2011-2018 Jetta sedan. It is limited to models that were equipped with an automatic transmission a manual handbrake, but no keyless entry. 

While this sounds like a fairly narrow subset of options, the Golf and Jetta (and their affected sub-models) represented a large chunk of Volkswagen’s sales volume during the years when the shift lever assembly was utilized. As a result, more than a half million vehicles with this combination were sold. 

To fix the issue, Volkswagen service departments will install a new switch with its own control module and bypass the built-in hardware so that it cannot communicate with other on-board systems. 

Volkswagen will reach out to owners of affected vehicles this fall, with the campaign expected to begin Oct. 11.