The UK’s vehicle safety agency said BMW failed to tell it about an electrical fault in one of its cars that was involved in a fatal collision.
On Christmas Day 2016, Narayan Gurung and his wife swerved their Ford Fiesta into a tree to avoid a BMW saloon.
The BMW had suffered an electrical fault, causing its brake lights to fail and resulting in the vehicle stalling on a dark A-road.
BMW said it was “deeply saddened” but could not comment further.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency said: “BMW did not make DVSA aware of electrical failure in its cars between 2011 and 2014, as it is required to do.
“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.”
Mr Gurung died at the scene and his wife was seriously injured.
An inquest this week revealed that BMW had received complaints of an electrical issue that caused a total power failure as early as 2011.
BMW recalled 500,000 cars in the US in 2013, as well as smaller recalls in Australia, Canada and South Africa, to address the problem.
The manufacturer received further vehicle safety defect reports from the DVSA in 2014.
The government body’s lead engineer, Andrew Tudor, stated in February 2016 that “we do not want a fatality”.
However, after a meeting in February 2016, BMW told DVSA officials that the faults were under control and no UK vehicles were recalled.
Alex Neill, of the consumer group Which?, said the case raised serious questions about whether the DVSA was 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.”
BMW supplier quality engineer Mark Hill said the company believed the issue was not “critical” because drivers could still steer and brake – despite their headlights, hazard lights, indicators and brake lights not working.
“It is not a safety defect because a prior warning is given to the user in the majority of cases,” he said.
The fault was caused by the cars’ battery cable connectors and fuse box terminal degrading, potentially causing a break in the electrical connection between battery and fuse box.
About 370,000 cars, including the 1 Series, 3 Series and Z4 models were thought to be affected. The coroner’s court at Woking, Surrey, heard that at least five cases were fixed under warranty.
Which? 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.”
The German manufacturer issued a recall of 36,000 cars in Britain three months after Mr Gurung, a 66-year-old former serviceman, was killed.
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.”
The inquest was adjourned on Monday until later this year.