I bumped into a friend who works for VX customer service last night. We were chatting for a while, and I amanged to glean some information about the handbrake and spring issues we're seeing. I don't mention any names or anything, as I don't want to compromise his position -having said that, I don't think he gave any secrets away. Some of this info may have already been posted, and I apologize for any repeats!
The handbrake issue:
The handbrake ratchet depends on two teeth on the pawl engaging with the handbrake ratchet. The problem occurs when the lever comes to a halt with the pawl teeth resting on the ratchet teeth, rather than in the "valley". If something makes the lever drop, instead of just going into the next "valley", it can drop right down. If you've got bad habits, like me, and just pull the lever up without pressing the button, you'll almost certainly not get the problem. If you press the button while pulling the handbrake up, you can get the problem. The fix involves adding an extra spring into the mechanism, which increases the ratchet spring from about 7 newtons to around 21. This will make the button harder to push, but should get rid of the problem. Letters will start going out at the beginning of April, at the rate of 10,000 per month.
This one is less cut and dried. It only seems to happen on cars that are a couple or years old, or have quite high mileage. It also seems to be worse in Northern European countries than Southern Europe, which leads to the suggestion that it's related to corrosion. Current theories revolve around road dirt build up on the springs, leading to small areas of severe corrosion, leading to breaks. New Saab 9-3's (which also get the problem) are now being fitted with shrouds on the front springs, as will the Insignia.