Around 36,000 vehicles affected by an electrical fault which could leave drivers without power – including lights – were initially recalled last year. The issue came to light when Narayan Gurung, a former Ghurka soldier, was killed in Hampshire early on Christmas Day in 2016 when he swerved his Ford Fiesta into a tree to avoid a BMW that had suddenly stalled due to an electrical fault.
An inquest into Mr Gurung’s death earlier this month heard that BMW had received complaints models suffering from total power failures in 2011. At that time, at least five vehicles were fixed under warranty.
This was followed up with further defect reports from the Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency (DVSA) in 2014. The inquest heard that more than 500,000 cars were recalled because of the same fault in the US in 2013, with similar recalls taking place in Australia, Canada and South Africa.
BMW reportedly held a meeting with DVSA officials in 2016, telling them the faults were under control. Nevertheless, two months after Mr Gurung's death, in February 2017, BMW recalled 36,000 cars due to the issue.
The inquest heard from a BMW representative who said that the fault was not deemed ‘critical’ because drivers could still steer and brake their vehicles – although their lights (including brake lights and indicators) would not work. Additionally, in the majority of cases, other faults including the car not being able to start would act as a prior warning. The fault is understood to have been caused by degrading connectors between the car’s battery cable and fusebox, which in turn caused an electrical fault.
When asked why UK customers were not told about the fault earlier, BMW’s supplier quality engineer Mark Hill replied that “the decisions to recall cars are made in Germany and not the UK”.
The inquest heard complaints made to the DVSA by three BMW owners who had experienced the fault, with one saying they were left 'stranded' in the fast lane of the motorway with other motorists “just narrowly avoiding [my] car because they could not see it as it was quite dark”.
Another said: “On three separate occasions the car has done it while driving. I was on a motorway at night and luckily I was able to pull over and narrowly missed a truck.”
A statement from BMW said that the company was “unable to comment specifically” on the fault as the inquest is ongoing, but added that it is “deeply saddened by this tragic incident and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Mr Gurung.”
What should BMW owners do?
In total, just under 312,000 cars are being recalled in the UK, with owners of affected cars being told to expect a letter from BMW within the next month. The repair will be free of charge, and should take less than two hours to complete. However, the process of repairing all the cars could take several months.
The full list of affected cars, which were built between March 2007 and September 2011, is as follows:
When contacted by What Car? a BMW spokesman confirmed that owners should continue to drive their cars at the moment, however, any owner who is worried should contact BMW Customer Services on 0800 325 600.
The good news is that, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, more than 90% of cars recalled in the UK do get fixed – a number which compares favourably with electrical product recalls, of which just 36% ever get fixed.
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The safest new family cars in the UK
Safety standards have risen dramatically, even in the last 10 years, but crash tests conducted by the independent safety assessors at Euro NCAP show that there are still sizeable differences between the best and worst performers. Below we count down the 10 family-friendly cars that received the highest scores.
= 10. Land Rover Discovery
Total Euro NCAP score: 318
The new Land Rover Discovery is one of the best family SUVs you can buy, achieving a five-star What Car? rating as well as a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. It can genuinely seat seven adults and combines a fantastic, elevated driving position with a very comfortable ride, plus it's as capable off the road as it is on it.
= 10. Subaru Levorg
Total Euro NCAP score: 318 (out of 400)
This practical, four-wheel-drive estate car earned the same Euro NCAP score as the Discovery, but it's nowhere near as impressive in other areas: it's expensive to buy, the ride is poorly controlled and the interior feels cheap.
9. Audi Q2
Total Euro NCAP score: 319
Adults will feel a bit cramped in the back of Audi's smallest SUV, but children will be fine and the interior is beautifully finshed. The Q2 is great fun to drive, too, and it has a slightly higher overall safety score than the larger Audi Q5.
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