Volkswagen is recalling select models of the 2011-2013 Volkswagen Jetta and the 2012-2013 Volkswagen Beetle. According to a bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (PDF), the recall stems from a flaw in the vehicles' suspension, which could dramatically increase the risk of a crash.
The problem lies with the vehicles' rear trailing arms, which can be damaged during rear and side-impact collisions. If the teams repairing vehicles following such crashes don't pay particular attention to the rear trailing arms, they may overlook deformities. Over time, those deformities can worsen, eventually causing the arms to fracture. As a result, a vehicle will become much harder for a driver to control, upping the risk of an accident.
The recall includes Jettas built between March 1, 2010 and November 30, 2012, as well as Beetles built between March 1, 2011 and July 31, 2013. (It would also seem that the recall is limited to vehicles that have been involved in collisions, though there's no mention of that from NHTSA.) Volkswagen estimates that some 442,000 vehicles will be affected by the recall.
As far as the fix is concerned, Volkswagen says that it "will install a sheet metal inlay on both rear axle trailing arms. This inlay is designed to help prevent the sudden loss of vehicle control, should a rear axle trailing arm fracture occur if undiagnosed/unrepaired damage to this area exists after a severe rear or side-rear impact/crash." While VW says that the repair will be carried out free of charge, any other damage resulting from a collision will remain the owner's responsibility.
Volkswagen knows of no accidents or injuries linked to this issue in the U.S., although two incidents have been reported in Asia.
The sheet metal inlays needed to fix this problem aren't available yet. However, Volkswagen says that it will sent owners an interim notification about the recall this month. That notification will be followed by a second letter as soon as the repair parts are available.
If you believe that you own one of the vehicles listed above and have questions, you're encouraged to contact Volkswagen customer service at 1-800-893-5298. Or, if you prefer, you can ring NHTSA directly at 888-327-4236 and ask about safety campaign #14V656000.