Volkswagen Group announced on Tuesday it was recalling some Golf, Jetta, Polo, Passat and Caddy models in Australia made between June 2008 and September 2011.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the recall, initially affecting 25,928 vehicles, would be extended to cover some Audi and Skoda models produced by the Volkswagen Group.

As many as 38,000 vehicles could be recalled in Australia.

Customers complained that the cars were suddenly losing power.

“Replacement of the gearbox unit will be free of charge,” Volkswagen Group Australia chief John White said. “Owners can continue to drive their vehicles as usual until their appointment.” The recall follows similar action elsewhere in the world over perceived problems with the direct-shift gearbox.

In a posting on Volkswagen Australia’s Facebook page, customer Christopher Russell said: “If you did this in the first place you wouldn’t have damaged the brand!!” Volkswagen Australia had sought to placate anxious motorists with a promise of free inspections at its dealerships. It had been insisting it would recall vehicles.

Patrick Southam, head of Sydney-based public relations firm GSG Counsel and a veteran of recall communications campaigns, said the brand had been damaged by the belated response to customer complaints.

“They seem to have been dragged kicking and screaming to a product recall and that’s just a very, very bad look,” he said. “For such a great brand like Volkswagen it’s really surprising to me that they’ve mishandled this.

“These things present opportunities to companies for being seen as responsive, for caring about their customers. They’re not demonstrating that very effectively by holding back on a recall.” The recall demand followed allegations made last week at a coroner’s hearing into the death of a motorist killed when her Golf was hit from behind by a truck in Melbourne.

The truck driver claimed the accident was unavoidable because the car suddenly slowed.

The company denied any link between the inquest and complaints about issues with transmissions.

More In: Industry | Business