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Metro East driver says seat warmer melted leather, burned her back

by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on February 9, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 10 at 4:27 AM

(KMOV) -- A Metro East woman says the seat warmer in her Volkswagen Jetta melted her leather car seat and burned her back.

Her complaint is not the only one.  News 4's Maggie Crane has been investigating this claim and more than 200 others like it.

A call to area dealers reveals its a growing problem, but some mechanics say Volkswagen has not told them how to fix it.  One mechanic speculates that it comes down to wear and tear; wiring inside the seat frays and starts burning.

In 2007 Gina McCauley bought a brand new, top-of-the-line Jetta.  But this car was so hot, she got burned.

"What did it smell like?" Maggie asked.

"Just something burning!" McCauley said.

A hole -- scorched through her heated, leather seat.

"I was driving to work and had my seat heater on a four.  It goes up to a five," McCauley said.

"If the car will allow you to put it that high, it shouldn't be dangerous," Maggie said.

"Yeah. Scalding," McCauley said.  "It shouldn't be scorching hot."

It happened in about 30 minutes -- the time it takes gina to drive to work.

"A couple of hours later, that's when it hit me on the back, you know, that I had some burns on my back," McCauley said.

Gina says the heated seat seared her skin through a sweater, similar to a bad sunburn with some redness, but not blistered.

"It could have caught on fire," McCauley said.  "It could have been a lot worse than it was."

It turns out Gina's complaints are common across boards and blogs.  On VWVortex.com and arfc.org (Auto Recalls for Consumers) people have posted about burning smells, extremely hot seats that have caught on fire, caused holes, and are a "huge safety issue."

More than 200 customers have posted about sitting in the hot seat of Jetta models from 2000 to 2008.  We found a recall issued in Canada six years ago, but none in America.

"Definitely there should be a recall," McCauley said.  "Replace the seats or do something.  At least adjust the heat!"

News 4 called and e-mailed Volkswagen America to find out what customers can and should do.  We also asked if the company was investigating.  A woman I spoke to told me that she'd check on it and get back to me.  She said she's taking the information I gave her seriously, but that it might be a week or more before she knows the answers to my questions.

We'll let you know what happens next.

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