Tuesday 10 September 2019 12:01 am

Consumer group calls on car manufacturers to recall faulty models

Some of the UK’s most popular car models are among the least reliable and could leave motorists facing mechanical failures and potentially high repair bills, new research has found.

Consumer rights group Which said it has uncovered “inherent flaws” in some vehicles made by carmakers including Nissan, Seat, and Tesla, and called on manufacturers to be upfront about the issues and recall affected vehicles.

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The survey of nearly 44,000 members of the public – which covered more than 52,000 cars – found owners dogged by problems including faulty batteries, exterior features, and suspension systems among the most common problems.

It also identified frequently-occurring faults with some Ford and BMW models that are no longer in production.

One of the UK’s bestselling cars, Nissan’s second generation Qashqai model, had the highest breakdown rate of all surveyed cars. A fifth of owners said they had had to replace their car’s battery in the past year – over four times the average rate for cars of the same age.

If a similar level of battery problem was affected all 300,000 Qashqai owners in the UK, an estimated 60,000 might need to replace their battery, Which said. Nissan said it was aware of the issue, and had changed battery suppliers last year.

The report said it was “unacceptable” for the UK’s hundreds of thousands of Qashqai owners to be “kept in the dark about this battery failure risk”, warning that owners could be left to pay the cost of repairs themselves if their battery breaks after the three-year warranty has elapsed.

Another popular family car, the Seat Alhambra had what Which described as an “alarmingly high fault rate”.

Just under 29 per cent of owners reported issues with their Alhambra’s exhaust and emission systems – five times higher than the average for three- to eight-year-old cars. More than a fifth (22.9 per cent) of Alhambra owners reported an issue with their car’s suspension system.

Seat said it was “concerned” by the findings, but could not “identify and explain” the results without being given further details. The carmarker said it had a “comprehensive warranty covering three years/60,000 miles”.

At the more luxurious end of the market, US car manufacturer Tesla was found by the survey to be one of the most-loved manufacturers by owners. However, the car-maker had the highest rate of faulty cars aged three to eight years old of all brands surveyed by Which.

Over one in five (22.2 per cent) of owners of Tesla’s Model S reported issues with their car’s exterior features – such as door handles, locks, or fuel caps. One in ten owners of a Tesla Model X less than three years old reported similar faults.

Which said the frequency of these reports suggested “an inherent flaw in the design” of the Tesla models in question. Tesla said it reviews every vehicle before it leaves the factory, and that it had a four-year warranty.

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Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which, said it was “concerning” that it had taken a survey to uncover the faults and called on manufacturers to take action. “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,” she said.

“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.”