Michelle Marchant, 33, was on her way to the grocery store in Hangleton, East Sussex, when her 2005 Vauxhall Zafira B started filling with smoke. She quickly pulled over and fled the vehicle.
According to Daily Mail, the mother of two said the passenger-side footwell then filled with flames. Within moments, the entire car was engulfed in fire, sending smoke 30 feet into the air.
“I noticed a funny smell coming from the vents and then there was smoke. I remember seeing flames in the passenger footwell first then it literally all went up. I was lucky I hadn’t made it onto a busier road because it would have been fatal,” Marchant said.
The Mirror reported that Marchant’s unfortunate experience is not isolated. There have been about 200 fires reported by drivers of Vauxhall vehicles. More than 220,000 Zafira B cars were recalled last year by the manufacturer due to the fires.
After conducting an investigation, Vauxhall released a statement regarding the fires: “Our investigations have found clear evidence that the cause is improper repair of the thermal fuse (part of the resistor) in the heating and ventilation system.”
Aware of the recall, Marchant and her husband were cautious when they purchased the vehicle from a private seller three weeks prior to the blaze. The seller provided paperwork and verbal reassurance that implied the car had been thoroughly checked before being sold.
Following the incident, Marchant called Vauxhall to see if they could grant her a courtesy car as a good-will gesture considering her insurance doesn’t cover a rental car. The manufacturer refused, stating it wasn’t evident that it was their fault the car caught fire.
Firefighters who responded to the scene described the leftover wreckage as nothing more than a charred, hollow shell.