Citroen is having to recall over 20,000 of its C3 Picasso cars over fears that the brakes can be activated from the passenger side.
The problem occurred because of the way the car is modified for right hand drive use on UK roads.
An investigation by the BBCâ€™s Watchdog programme found that in some cases the brake could still be engaged through a cable under the passenger footwell. This could potentially lead to a serious accident if the cable was inadvertently activated.
Citroen has said that although it is recalling the cars, the chances of the brakes being activated by the passenger are extremely remote. It is offering customers a free modification to correct the problem.
The BBC was alerted by a complaint from a commercial cleaning company based in Kent. Town and Country Cleaners said it discovered the problem when one of its drivers suddenly found himself screeching to a halt on a motorway.
The company added that the same problem has occurred across its entire fleet of Picassos.
Watchdog then tested two other C3 Picassos on sale at dealerships in southeast England. Both of the models tested were found to have the same potentially fatal flaw.
Speaking to the BBC, Mark Brown, a motor engineer expert, said: â€œIt’s potentially very dangerous indeed because the passenger wouldn’t know he’s the one activating the brake. The driver wouldn’t know what’s going on and the people behind wouldn’t know what’s going on.
â€œI think Citroen should take a good close look at this and seriously consider recalling the vehicles, and fitting some sort of structural permanent cover to protect the braking mechanism.â€
There are also fears that because Citroen shares many of its components with sister company Peugeot, the same problem may arise. However, Peugeot has stated that in its cars it isolates the braking mechanism from the passenger footwell with a protective plate.
Since the C3 Picasso was launched in the UK in 2009, Citroen has sold almost 22,000 models.
Under the terms of a standard VOSA recall, Citroen is offering the modification to customers at all of its franchised dealer sites.
The potential ramifications for Citroen are large here, given the fallout Toyota experienced from its recalls a few years ago.