The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has opened a criminal investigation into Vauxhall’s handling of the fires that affected its Zafira B model between 2009 and 2015.

The criminal probe is being carried out with Luton Borough Council’s trading standards officers. It follows on from a Transport Committee report published in April 2017, which chastised then GM-owned Vauxhall for a “sluggish approach to investigation, its willingness to place the blame on third parties, and its attempt to address the problem through non-code action rather than a recall”.

Vauxhall recalled some 430,000 vehicles over the issue between November 2015 and May 2016.

The DVSA, which was with seeking assurance that “Vauxhall has put in place robust processes and systems to ensure that potential defects are properly investigated”, said the way the carmaker handled the recall formed part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

It said that, following Groupe PSA’s acquisition of Opel/Vauxhall, “there is now a new but experienced team in place, who are working with DVSA to improve all aspects of recalls”.

The DVSA added that following meetings with OEMs and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in January, it is now devising improved ways of communicating defects and handling recalls more efficiently.

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It said: “DVSA has established a number of meetings monitoring compliance across the industry.

“It should be noted that the number of defects reported to DVSA has significantly increased during the year.”

The Zafira B was introduced in 2005. The first cases of fires, relating to the heating and ventilation system, were reported between 2008 and 2009. In 2014, concerns were raised within Vauxhall about distinctive patterns leading to the fire.

GM initially blamed the fires on unauthorised repairs, but the Transport Committee found that no attempt had been made to identify the garages that had allegedly carried the repairs out.

Vauxhall began a recall action in late 2015, following the first report from a member of the public to the DVSA over the fires.