BMW 7 Series

BMW Downplayed Electrical Fault Before Crash That Killed Gurkha Veteran

BMW received dozens of complaints of a potentially fatal electrical fault but waited five years until a driver died before taking action...

BMW 7 Series

Picture: BMW factory in Dingolfing, Germany (Image: PA)

A Gurkha veteran was killed while trying to avoid a "blacked out" BMW that had stalled suddenly after being affected by an electrical fault.

Narayan Gurung, 66, from Aldershot, died following the collision on Christmas Day when his Ford Fiesta collided with a tree after swerving to avoid the stationary BMW.

An inquest into his death at Woking Coroner's Court was told that BMW had played down dozens of complaints of the potentially fatal fault. 

For five years the German car giant failed to tell tens of thousands of customers of the electrical glitch, only deciding to recall 36,000 of the affected cars, three months after Mr Gurung died, the inquest heard.

BMW insisted the electrical fault which led to its cars completely losing power was not "critical" because drivers were still able to steer and brake despite headlight, hazard lights and brake light failing.

It was not deemed a safety defect because in the "majority of cases" BMW drivers experienced other problems first, such as not getting the car to start which would act as a prior warning, the hearing heard.

BMW received its first complaints about a cohort of 370,000 cars including the 1 Series, 3 Series and Z4 models in 2011 when at least five cases were fixed under warranty.

The manufacturer received more vehicle safety defect complaints by the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency in 2014 but after a February meeting in 2016 convinced the agency to drop the probe.

Mark Hill BMW Inquest
Mark Hill, respsonsible for technical support at BMW UK, leaving Woking Coroner's Court (Image: SWNS)

Woking Coroner's Court heard the manufacturer had previously known about the electrical problem with their vehicles after more than 500,000 cars were recalled in the US.

Other recalls were also made in Canada, South Africa, USA and Australia.

Mr Ramsay also read out the experiences of three BMW owners who made complaints to the DVSA known as VSD or vehicle safety defect reports.

One driver said: "The vehicle cuts out at any time.

"The first time it happened I was driving on the A2 in Kent.

"I was in the third lane of a motorway and it just cut out, I had no lights and could not use my indicators or brakes as motorists behind me would not know that I was braking.

"I was stranded in the third lane of the motorway and there were cars just narrowly avoiding my car as they could not see it as it was quite dark."

Another motorist said: "Since the last callout the unlocking mechanism failed the fault has got worse.

"On three separate occasions the car has done it whilst driving.

"I was on a motorway at night and luckily I was able to pull over and narrowly missed a truck.

"My passenger was in tears due to this.

"It was lucky that this did not occur on an unlit A-road or on a bend."

The inquest continues.