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BMW inquest – BMW knew about fatal fault

Manufacturer knew about a fault affecting more than 36,000 cars but did not start a full recall via the DVSA prior to a man losing his life

On Christmas day 2016, Narayan Gurung (66) was driving a Ford Fiesta when a BMW on the road in front of him suddenly stalled. Narayan swerved round the stationary BMW but collided with a tree, killing him and seriously injuring his wife.

The BMW that stalled had suffered a total power failure, which was caused by a break in the electrical connection between the battery and fuse box.

BMW has confirmed it received reports of the fault in question as early as 2011, and that further safety defect reports were received from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) in 2014.

Following the fatality, over 36,000 cars were recalled via the DVSA.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

‘Drivers in the UK will ask why BMW delayed recalling a car that was a known danger and had been recalled in several other countries years earlier.

‘This raises serious questions about whether the DVSA is doing enough to ensure that dangerous cars are taken off the road. It must now set out how it will respond to this incident and ensure that other car recalls are dealt with swiftly.’

Update (9 May 2018): BMW extends recall to 312,000 cars

Affected models now include both petrol and diesel versions of the BMW 1 Series, BMW 3 Series, BMW X1 and BMW Z4 built between March 2007 and September 2011. This is a large scale increase from the initial (petrol-only) 36,410 cars recalled in April 2017.

Update (3 May 2018): DVSA response

According to the DVSA, BMW did not make the DVSA aware of 19 cases of electrical failure between 2011 and 2014, as it is required to do under the General Product Safety Regulations.

The DVSA chief executive, Gareth Llewelyn, said: ‘BMW did not make DVSA aware of electrical failure in its cars between 2011 and 2014. It then provided us with incorrect information about the faults, so we were not able to make an informed decision.

‘However, after examining the growing evidence, DVSA contacted BMW in December 2016 to ask it to conduct a full safety recall of the affected vehicles.’

‘Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Gurung.’

Update (8 June 2018):

The coroner in the BMW inquest has concluded that the manufacturer was aware of a safety defect that led to the death of Narayan Gurung. She also criticised the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency over their response.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

“It’s clear the car recall system doesn’t work effectively. The DVSA and car manufacturers should be making the safety of road users a priority and there should be no delays in getting vehicles that have safety issues taken off the road and repaired immediately.

“The Government must ensure that the DVSA has the powers that it needs to hold manufacturers to account and protect people from the dangers of unsafe vehicles.”

BMW said: “This was a tragic accident and we again express our sincere condolences to Mr Gurung’s family.

“Safety is of paramount importance to BMW – nothing comes before this.

“We need to reflect on what the coroner has said this morning, including her observations about the code of practice.

“Whilst BMW considers that it has followed all the processes required by the relevant regulations, we recognise the need for the automotive industry to review relevant processes and procedures.”

You can read more about this and see what our timeline reveals – go to did BMW lie about fatal fault?

BMW models affected and fault details

The fault affects both petrol and diesel versions of the BMW 1 Series, BMW 3 Series, BMW X1 and BMW Z4 built between March 2007 and September 2011.

The fault is caused by the connection between the battery and the power distribution box becoming damaged. In most cases this should mean vehicles will not start, but in extreme cases (such as the one above), the car will cut out while the vehicle is in motion.

While the driver should be made aware of the issue by a flickering of the instrument panel, or an engine mis-fire, it can cut out without warning according to the recall information.

Following reports, BMW did start a Technical Action (informal recall) in November 2016, shortly before the accident, whereby it approached retailers with details of the problem and the solution.

However, BMW only went to the DVSA to conduct a full-scale recall after the fatal accident occurred. The recall went live on 10 April 2017, more than three months after the incident.

BMW confirmed to us today that 36,410 cars are affected in the UK, of which 28,972 (80%) have been successfully recalled and fixed so far.

Is my BMW affected?

If you think you own one of the models mentioned built between March 2007 and September 2011, immediately check with your local BMW dealer or with BMW directly. If you are affected, your car will be fixed free of charge.

The inquest into Mr Gurung’s death continues. BMW has released the following statement:

‘We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Mr Gurung. As this matter is still the subject of court proceedings, we are unable to comment specifically on it.’

(This story was updated on 3 May 2018 to include the DVSA’s response and a link to our latest news story, on the 9 May following the recall being extended and again on the 8 June to include the coroner’s conclusion)

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