Wolfsburg - Volkswagen said it was recalling 290 000 VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda cars built between March and August 2004 owing to a potential fault that could provoke engine leaks. South African models are also affected.
VW said in a statement it was writing to the owners, of whom 90 000 were in Germany, asking them to take the cars into garages for inspection.
The problem, which affects three- and four-cylinder diesel models, could result from a fracture in a fuel pump screw, that could cause fuel to leak, VW said.
However, VWSA spokesperson Songezo Zibi told Wheels24 that the only cars affected in South Africa are the 1.4 TDI Polo models.
Zibi said that in South Africa the problem is not treated as a recall as it is not "safety critical" and he described it as a "loose nut" causing the problem.
According to him the problem, which is minor, will be fixed when customers bring in their cars for service.
"If Polo 1.4 TDI owners smell or see a leak they could also take the car to their nearest VW service centre, Zibi said.