An electrical fault with a range of BMWs has been linked to a fatal accident after a British man crashed and subsequently died after he was forced to avoid a broken-down BMW with no lights or power on a dark A-road.
The ongoing inquest into the death found that BMW was aware of the issue, which involved overheating battery cables leading to a loss of power and lights. The fault affected some models of BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and Z4, and prompted a recall in 2013 of over 500,000 vehicles in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
The court heard that BMW didn’t initially issue a recall for the fault in the UK, as it was not felt to be “critical” because drivers would still be able to brake and steer if their cars were affected, however, their brake, head and hazard warning lights would not function.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the government organisation responsible for monitoring car safety recalls, told BMW at a meeting in 2016: “we do not want a fatality”. In February 2017, two months after Mr Gurung’s death, BMW recalled 36,000 affected cars in the UK.
The lawyer representing Mr Gurung’s family at the inquest told Mark Hill, BMW’s supplier quality engineer that: “If someone’s vehicle suffers a total electrical failure on a motorway or on an A-road they lose the ability to use their brake lights or hazard lights and that gives rise to serious injury or death. No lights are the biggest concern. Another road user cannot see the powerless car.”
Hill said: “It is not a safety defect because a prior warning [such as the car not starting] is given to the user in the majority of cases.” He added the fault: “Is deemed not critical because the driver is still able to steer the car and brake the car. The car is still under control.”
A statement released by BMW said: “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.”