Volkswagen announced Thursday it was recalling nearly 200,000 vehicles in Brazil because of a problem with the rear wheels that could cause them to seize or fall off.

The recall affects its Novo Gol and Voyage models made in Brazil before July 2009.

Volkswagen is the second biggest carmaker in Brazil after Italian group Fiat. It has sold more than 17 million vehicles in the country - Latin America's biggest car market - since launching operations there 50 years ago.

Its announcement follows a massive worldwide recall by Toyota over accelerator and brake problems, and another by rival Japanese maker Honda in North America, Japan, Taiwan and Australia of models with a dangerous airbag fault.

Volkswagen Brazil said on its website that 193,620 Novo Gol and Voyage cars were at risk at not having sufficient lubrication on its rear wheels, which "can cause noise and continuous use could lead to a blockage of the wheels."

"In extreme cases, the wheel can come off," it said.

The recall was preventative, the company said.

"It's important to note that this recall only concerns some vehicles in the 2009-2010 lot. Cars made after July don't have this lubrication problem. From July to now, all other vehicles are OK," a Volkswagen spokesman told AFP.

The spokesman denied that Volkswagen had been slow to react. "A certain time is needed to identify the problem. What's important is that the problem has been identified and resolved."

It was the third such operation launched by Volkswagen in Brazil.

In April 2008, it recalled 477,000 of its Brazilian-made Fox compact models to fix a fault with the rear seat.

Eight Fox owners had their fingers mutilated and 14 suffered lesser hand injuries as they tried to fold the seat down to enlarge trunk space.

In December of that same year, 120,000 late-model Fox, Novo Gol and Voyage cars were recalled because of a brake fault.

The only other recall in Brazil's automobile history was in 2002, when US carmaker General Motors launched a campaign to repair problems with a million of its Corsa models sold.

Volkwagen made 700,000 vehicles in its four Brazilian factories last year, according to the national carmakers' association. It employs 22,000 people in the country.



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