For the second time in three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Volkswagen's Passat for 2002-03 over complaints of engine compartment fires related to ignition-coil failures. The NHTSA has started a preliminary evaluation, the first stage of a formal investigation, of 16 owner reports involving up to 199,000 vehicles. The NHTSA Web site revealed that some of the complaints had talked about the sedan hesitating or losing power during the ignition coil failure. Other complaints talked about the coils failing and the owners having to replace them more than once.
One complainant wrote that while driving at about 45mph, the vehicle started shaking violently and then shut down in the middle of the intersection. It skidded into an intersection and almost struck a child. VW spokesman Kerry Christopher said that the company is cooperating with NHTSA. He said that all these investigations are being taken seriously.
The federal agency's records indicate that the NHTSA also conducted a 2007-2008 investigation of the Passat over complaints of about 78 crashes and engine fires possibly related to ignition coil failures. The investigation was shut down after Volkswagen issued the recall of 412,000 Passats from 2000-2003. In a 2008 posting, the NHTSA said that these vehicles may have an underbody heat shield that can become damaged. The agency also said that a vehicle fire could result from a heat shield that may come in contact with the exhaust system.