Some of Britain’s most popular cars are being affected by “inherent” flaws which manufacturers are keeping hidden from owners, according to new research by a leading consumer group.
Which? has found widespread failings in a number of models, including the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, that could leave owners facing large bills.
It is now calling on car makers to be more honest with the public about common problems and issue voluntary recalls to address them.
The consumer group carried out a survey of nearly 44,000 car owners covering more than 52,000 vehicles to assess reliability and found that the 2014-onwards Nissan Qashqai had the highest breakdown rate of the 276 models it ranked.
The family SUV is consistently one of the UK’s best-selling cars and the Which? study found that a fifth of all owners had needed to replace their car’s battery in the last year – almost five times the average rate for cars of the same age.
Nissan said that it was aware of issues with batteries on older cars and had switched suppliers in 2018. It also said that it was working to address a problem with the body control module software on 2018-19 cars which could drain the battery.
Which?, however, said that it was unacceptable that Nissan had not warned owners of a potential battery fault which could leave them out of pocket if it fails outwith the car’s warranty.
The survey also found that despite owners loving their Teslas, more than a fifth of Model S owners (22.2 per cent) had been let down by problems with exterior features such as door handles and locks on cars aged three to eight years – that’s 10 times higher than the average for a car in the same age range.
Owners of the more modern Model X also reported similar problems in 10 per cent of cases, that Which? said suggested an inherent flaw in the cars.
Across all brands Tesla had the highest percentage of faulty cars in the three to eight-year bracket, with more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of all owners reporting an issue.
Tesla said that its warranties covered repairs and replacement of parts such as door handles for cars up to four years but Which? argued that this left owners of older models facing a repair bill for a problem that Tesla is well aware of.
Other models which performed particularly poorly in the Which? ratings were the Seat Alhambra and previous generations of the BMW 5 Series Touring and Ford B-Max, which all saw far higher than average failures.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “It is concerning that it has taken Which?’s survey of thousands of motorists to uncover what are in some cases inherent flaws with some of the UK’s best-selling cars. Owners should be able to trust that manufacturers will make them aware of these issues and offer a fix when they see a recurring problem.”
“It is vital these manufacturers make the public aware of these serious faults and ensure vehicle owners are not left out of pocket should the issues occur outside their warranty.”
Seat said that it offered a three-year warranty on its new cars and that without more details couldn’t identify or explain the study’s findings that nearly a third of Alhambra owners had experienced exhaust and emissions issues and nearly a quarter had faced suspension problems.
Ford said it had offered extended warranties on cars affected by the automatic gearbox problem which a quarter of B-Max owners had experienced and was assessing out-of-warranty problems on an individual basis.
BMW said that despite a quarter of 5 Series Touring (2010-17) owners reporting suspension failures, such issues had affected a “tiny fraction” of its customers in the first half of 2019.