Volkswagen offers free inspections to Australian car owners, no recall

CANBERRA, June 7 (Reuters) - Automobile maker Volkswagen AG has written to Australian car owners offering free inspections of VW vehicles in response to growing worries about potential gearbox problems that have already triggered recalls in China and Japan.

Australian Managing Director John White told Australia’s Fairfax newspaper on Friday that VW “have issues” after car owners complained of transmission and engine failures causing loss of power, but did not order a general recall.

White, in an open letter to customers, said the carmaker continued “to stand by the quality of our cars and the integrity of our engineering excellence”, offering free inspections and setting up a hotline service for concerned local owners.

Volkswagen last month recalled about 91,000 cars in Japan, citing potential gearbox problems that have already caused a recall in China. The company said the problems were due to the hot and wet climate, the extreme stop-and-go traffic as well as pollution typical of some Asian cities.

Australia’s government is investigating reports of power loss problems with cars manufactured by Volkswagen amid a coronial inquiry into the death of a woman killed when her Volkswagen Golf was hit by a truck in 2011. The Victoria state coroner is due to report in July.

Australian newspapers have reported being contacted by hundreds of local car owners who have experienced problems with their Volkswagen vehicles.

The company has previously said high-tech DSG automatic transmissions used in Australian cars are manufactured in Europe and do not require a vehicle recall.

Consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which can order a vehicle recall, said it would rely on advice from the country’s transport department, which is investigating complaints from local Volkswagen owners.

In 2012, Volkswagen sold 3.17 million vehicles in the Asia-Pacific region, of which 2.81 million were in China. (Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)