The federal government has launched an investigation into possible faults in popular models of Volkswagens which have led to motorists experiencing a frightening and sudden loss of acceleration while driving their cars.
The Department of Infrastructure and Transport confirmed late on Friday that it was probing ''reports of VWs decelerating and is liaising closely with Volkswagen Australia''.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Media was flooded on Friday by more than 50 concerned drivers who had read about the case of Melissa Ryan, a 32-year-old bride-to-be who was killed by a truck on the Monash Freeway after her Golf appeared to suffer a dramatic and inexplicable loss of speed.
The Victorian Coroner is investigating Ms Ryan's death, which could be due to vehicle malfunction, driver error, truck driver fault or the combination of these factors. Volkswagen Australia has said there is no evidence to suggest her car was at fault.
But Ms Ryan's story, and a Fairfax Media investigation into a number of issues that have sparked recalls in China, Japan and the United States, sparked a big response on Friday among Volkswagen customers.
At least 55 people spoke of their loss of faith in their vehicles after they were travelling on busy highways only to feel their cars ''just die''. The incidents occurred from Brisbane to the Blue Mountains, in suburban Melbourne and on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Most incidents involved the Golf and Passat models, both manual and automatics, and the problems included issues with the vehicle's software, switching suddenly into ''limp home mode'', the failure of diesel injectors, the immobiliser systems and the automatic transmission (the high-tech direct-shift gearboxes, or DSG).
Many said that after the incidents no fault showed up on the car log and some mechanics were unsure why the cars were experiencing sudden deceleration. Others had to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for repairs and replacement parts.
One Sydney man, who declined to be named, took legal action against Volkswagen after his wife was almost killed on a freeway when their 2010 Golf automatic ''ground to a halt'' amid traffic. The couple could not afford to continue the legal action.
In Sydney, Di Webster said that on Wednesday evening she was driving towards the city. As she approached the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Bridge in her automatic 2006/07-model VW Golf, a yellow light appeared on her dashboard and suddenly ''the car died''.
''It was quite bizarre. It was moving. I just couldn't accelerate,'' Ms Webster said. Fortunately there were no vehicles around her at the time and she was able to exit into the city and pull over, where she called the NRMA.
''I was really lucky I was where I was. If I had a truck bearing down behind me, God knows what would have happened,'' she said.
Golf driver Patrick Walsh, whose car stopped several times in busy traffic last year said: ''Everyone expects the best of an iconic German vehicle [but] I'm afraid it failed me twice early in its life in tricky situations and that's not good enough.''
Jetta owner Geof Sargent said he wanted his case to be considered by the Victorian Coroner because ''on two occasions that's where my wife could have ended up''.
As Fairfax Media reported on Friday, Volkswagen has recalled some of its models in China and Japan for issues with the DSG, while Volkswagen of America has replaced parts free.
Volkswagen Australia has refused calls for a recall here, saying the Chinese DSGs were made locally and the DSGs in Australia are European. However, the company has extended the warranty for the part.
Volkswagen has a service ''campaign'' related to a problem with the diesel injectors but many customers do not appear to know about it.
Volkswagen did not return Fairfax Media's calls yesterday.
With ADAM COOPER