BMW tops list for customers' gripes about car defects

BMW has overtaken Volkswagen as the brand with the most customer complaints about product defects.

For the 12 months ended April 30, the Bavarian brand had the dubious honour of topping the list with nine complaints received by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

Volkswagen, which hogged the top spot for the past two years, was next with five complaints, along with Mercedes-Benz and Toyota (including one about Lexus). The last one that made the top five list was Mazda, with four complaints.

Case said all the defect-related complaints were filed against authorised agents.

Comparing the ratio of complaints to the number of cars sold also saw BMW topping the list, with 2.55 complaints for every 1,000.

Volkswagen was next with 1.64, followed by Mercedes with 1.0. Among the three German brands, VW was the only one that improved in the complaints-to-sales ratio. Last year, its ratio was 3.41. Mazda had 0.76, while Toyota had 0.58 complaints per 1,000 cars sold.

In total, there were 42 defect-related complaints about new cars in the period, with European makes accounting for two-thirds of the tally.

A Case spokesman said: "We see a variety of defective motorcar complaints, such as faulty engine cooling system, defective gearbox, rattling noises while driving, problems with the braking system, et cetera.

"Some cars are reported to have multiple defects as well."

Retiree Tan Chim Peng, 52, said he bought a BMW X3 in February last year. Just two months later, he detected a whistling sound when he travelled at more than 80kmh. The windows also rattled intermittently.

He said: "The workshop inserted a thin rubber strip above the window frames, but the noise persisted. They couldn't fix it."

He approached Case, and the car agent offered to buy back the X3. "I paid $224,800 for it, and six months later, they offered me $160,000," he said. He decided to keep it until recently, when he traded it in for a Mercedes-Benz GLC.

He said: "The BMW has a good engine, but its insulation is poor. My previous car, a Hyundai Tucson, had better insulation, and it cost half the price."

A spokesman for BMW agent Performance Motors (PML) said: "We take great pride in the products that we sell and we are confident that they have been tested by the manufacturer... to ensure that the products are of the highest quality.

"That said, each of the concerns raised with the Consumers Association of Singapore was on different issues. A few issues were raised regarding expired warranties and general wear and tear of the vehicles and component parts.

"PML addressed these issues closely with customers to ensure that they were resolved in a timely manner."

Case said product defects accounted for the bulk of the 119 complaints it received about new cars.

The remaining 77 complaints were about a wide variety of issues, from poor service to failure to honour a sales agreement to misrepresentation, and were attributable to both authorised agents and parallel importers.

"For example, the consumer could have requested a car made in a certain country and the car dealer could have led the consumer to believe that it was so, when it was not true," the Case spokesman said.

This article was first published on May 19, 2016.
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