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really awful
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 44
Injuries / Deaths:
25 / 0
Average Mileage:
36,558 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Volkswagen Passat accessories - interior problems

accessories - interior problem

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2003 Volkswagen Passat Owner Comments (Page 2 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #61

Nov 252006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


My driver seat started on fire while driving. I was lucky to have had a can of soda on hand to pour on it because the flames were coming from deep inside the interior of the foam padding inside the seat. I was not injured, but based on the size of the flames, could have easily lost my entire car if I had not been on a slow road (able to stop quickly) and douse it with something wet. I noticed that the seat warmer was on so immediately shut it off. Several days later I turned the warmer back on to see what would happen - within 60 seconds smoke and sparks were visible from the hole caused by the original fire. There were real flames and my car was full of smoke. Had I not been able to put them out quickly and had my children strapped into their car seats at the time this complaint would probably be a death notice.

- Oconomowoc, WI, USA

problem #60

Nov 032006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 120,000 miles
Driver's side car seat started smoldering then flames appeared. Turned off car seat heater and extinguished with water.

- Chicoutimi, 00, USA

problem #59

Oct 282006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 102,900 miles
I had just began leaving a supermarket parking lot when I felt a burning sensation on my left upper thigh. I reached down to determine why and then smelled something burning. Looking down, I saw a burn hole in the driver seat, left side, toward the back of the seat. It looked like a cigarette burn. I immediately turned the seat heater off, which was on 3, pulled over and extinguished the smoldering with my hand. The dealers initial response was that my car was out of warranty but they would see if it could still be covered at no charge. I'm waiting on a response. This seems to be a relatively common failure based on the complaints that have been filed and is definitely a safety issue.

- Westtown, NY, USA

problem #58

Oct 302006

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles


: the contact stated after 15 minutes with the driver side seat heater on, the seat began to smoke and then smoldered. The vehicle was driven home and was turned off. The driver sustained minor injuries. The vehicle had not been seen by a mechanic.

- Dundee, OR, USA

problem #57

Oct 252006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 46,500 miles
: the contact stated the front driver seat's heater element burned through the seat and caught the contacts clothes on fire. The contact sustained burns to the legs. The vehicle was taken to a service dealer. Updated 12/01/06.

- Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #56

Oct 242006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,205 miles
The heated drivers leather seat element burned through the leather and burned a hole in my pants. I felt the burn and got out of the car, and turned off the seat heater. I was parked in my driveway waiting for the windows to defrost. The car is a 2003 VW Passat 1.8T. I called a VW dealer, and they said to bring it in for inspection.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #55

Oct 242006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 32,000 miles


2003 VW Passat heated seat burnt through the leather. I had burnt sensations while driving and smelled burning..very scary and dangerous. Good thing I was quick thinking and turned off the heated seat immediately.

- Mclean, VA, USA

problem #54

Oct 222006

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 23,000 miles
While my husband was driving our 2003 AWD Passat wagon with myself and two children in the car, the driver seat caught on fire. At the time it caught fire, the heated seat was on setting 3 for no more than 5 minutes. Luckily, my husband was able to pull off the road, exit the vehicle, and turn off the heated seat before he was burned and/or a large fire erupted.

- Huntington, NY, USA

problem #53

Oct 072006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,981 miles
I turned on the driver's heated seats when I felt them hotter than usual, seconds later I smelled something burning and then I saw smoke coming up from the left side by my seat. I jumped out of the car and found flames visible coming from inside the seat. I put the fire out. I called the dealership and they are supposed to fix it.

- Columbia, MD, USA

problem #52

Feb 202006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,001 miles
My 2003 Volkswagen Passat has a seat warmer. One morning, it began to burn on my leg; I noticed the leather in one corner was melting. One of the wires for the seat heater was malfunctioning and pressing against the seat. I notified my local dealer and VW of America. They were unwilling to fix the problem because the car was no longer under warranty, even though it was only three years old. It seems to me that this is not only a defect, but also a safety hazard.

- Altadena, CA, USA

problem #51

May 032006


  • miles


Use of driver's side seat heater created burning sensation in the region of my left hip and scent of singed/burning material arose from the seat. The seat heater was immediately turned off, however a burning smell persisted for 3-5 minutes. I have use this feature in the same vehicle without incident for 2.5 years prior to this occurrence.

- Pasadena, MD, USA

problem #50

Feb 092006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 24,617 miles
: the contact stated while driving at 20mph, the seat warmer started smoking although, no flames were visible. The vehicle was pulled to the side of the road and the ignition was turned off. The contact noticed a hole in the seat from where the smoke was coming from. The vehicle was towed to the dealership where proper repairs were made.

- Peachtree City, GA, USA

problem #49

Feb 062006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 60,000 miles
Heated seat in car malfunctioned and burned a hole in the seat. No injury occurred, but if left unattended this could be a fire or safety hazard.

- Menlo Park, CA, USA

problem #48

Jan 022006

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 32,875 miles
The heated seats in my 2003 VW Passat had a malfunction and burned through the cushioning and pants that I was wearing. Looks like a large cigarette hole on the left side of my front driver seat.

- Reminderville, OH, USA

problem #47

Nov 222005


  • miles
While driving with heated seats on, noticed burning in my left thigh. Smelled smoke, burned my index finger in smoldering hole in seat. Turned off heater and noted just light smoke. VW says it was a recall item, but I never received notice (original owner). They will replace it.

- Lancaster, PA, USA

problem #46

Nov 182005


  • Manual transmission
  • 47,000 miles
On the morning of Nov. 18, 2005, I was driving my 2003 Volkswagen Passat though my neighborhood. It was a cold morning, so I had the driver-side seat warmer activated at level 4 (highest setting is 5). After several minutes, I noticed the smell of something burning. At first I discounted it as merely the smell of the car's heater or something external. But I soon felt excessive heat on my buttocks and stopped the car, leaving it running. When I got out and looked at the seat, there was a smoldering hole about one-quarter of an inch in diameter on the back-left surface of the leather seat. The seat warmer unit had burned a hole though the seat surface and, were it not for my wool pants, could have burned my skin. I immediately took the vehicle to the service department of my local dealer, gossett Volkswagen. The service assistant told me this problem was not uncommon and that it the heating element and seat would be replaced at no charge. However, because some of the necessary parts had to be ordered, I will take the vehicle back to the dealer at a later date. The service assistant instructed me not to use the seat warmer feature in the interim. While I am concerned about the obvious equipment failure, I am more concerned that such an event could ignite the seat cover, the driver's clothing or other combustible items, possibly causing an accident and/or bodily harm.

- Germantown, TN, USA

problem #45

Nov 052005

Passat 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I recently was notified of Volkswagen's customer satisfaction campaign M2 concerning seat heaters for 2002-2003 VW Passats. I have had less than an adequate response from both the dealer and the VW customer care center. You can download a copy of the original letter from VW from my ftp server using the following link: you can download a copy of my response to VW using the following link: if you cannot access either file, please contact me so that I can determine an alternate method to send the information to NHTSA -- this form limited size to 2,000 characters.

- Rome, NY, USA

problem #44

Oct 142005

Passat 6-cyl

  • 114,700 miles
I drive a 2003 VW Passat and while driving a two lane road the seat heater inside the leather seats ignited burning through the seat, burning a hole in my pants and burning my behind causing me to swerve off the road and exit the vehicle to avoid other injury as the seat burned. This has been apparently reported hundreds of times yet VW refuses a recall. VW agreed to replace the seat and pants but refused any other compensation for injuries sustained.

- Uniondale, PA, USA

problem #43

Oct 282005

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
The contact stated the driver's seat burned the contact's leg while using the seat heater. Also, she pulled the muscles in her back and hip when she jumped out of the vehicle. The vehicle is at the dealership being repaired. She is concerned that the same type of seat is being used to replace the current seat.

- Sumter, SC, USA

problem #42

Oct 252005

Passat 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles
While driving, I turned on the driver's seat warmer to position 5, within 1 minute, I smelled something burning, smoke was rising from my seat, I felt a hot burning sensation under my left upper thigh and realized the seat warmer was on fire. I stopped the car, turned off the seat warmer. The seat warmer burned through my leather seat and left damage about the size of a quarter. Contacted local VW dealer (martens Volkswagen, bethesda, md) was asked to bring car in immediately, electrical system checked, seat warmer disconnected, driver's seat will be replaced.

- Bethesda, MD, USA

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