2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Seat Belt Failure Investigations

On January 10, 2018, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened Preliminary Investigation PE18-001 to evaluate the seat belt separations in certain model year 2018 Volkswagen (VW) Tiguan vehicles. These separations occurred during two New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests. The NCAP test is a 35 mph, full frontal, rigid barrier crash with a belted 50th percentile male ATD in the driver position and a belted 5th percentile female ATD in the front passenger position. The 2017 tests were conducted at MGA Research Corporation on December 8th, and at the Transportation Research Center on December 13th. During both crash tests, the driver seat belt webbing completely separated where the webbing passed through the seat belt latch slot.

Then, on July 3, 2018, the ODI upgraded their investigation and opened Engineering Analysis EA18-005 to further examine seat belt behavior in the subject vehicles and to determine, among other things, a root cause for the seat belt webbing separation. The investigation resume reveals that during both crash tests, the driver seat belt webbing completely separated in tension where it passed through the seat belt latch plate. Based on its analysis of the NCAP test results, VW asserted that the test dummy umbilical cord exerted additional forces on the seat belt system causing the separation. To support this theory, VW conducted several sled tests.

The ODI and NCAP reviewed the sled test data submitted by VW in support of their theory. However, micro analysis conducted by the Materials Laboratory at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) verified the seat belts failed in tension and not due to cuts or abrasion. This Engineering Analysis will allow ODI to perform a thorough review of any vehicle and seat belt design changes for the new 2018 MY Tiguan platform and their effects on the performance of the seat belt system.

The NCAP test reports are not available. Communication with ODI did not reveal additional information. Requests for the NCAP test reports directed to the Department of Transportation were not acknowledged. Updates will follow when newfound information is made available.