IN MOST people’s lists of the most unreliable car brands, Volvo wouldn’t be considered near the top, but in a survey of 47,000 drivers by Which? magazine the Swedish car maker’s XC90 SUV has been named as the UK’s ‘most error-prone car’.
While Volvo’s ambition is that nobody should be seriously injured or killed in any of its new cars, and it has claimed that there is no “gender crash gap” in Volvo cars, the consumer publication’s editorial pointed out that “safety and reliability are not related”.
The survey’s findings showed that while the first three years of an XC90’s life are likely to be trouble-free, issues commonly arise after year three as the main warranty expires.
The most common problems were exhaust and emission control problems, issues with the engine’s cooling system, faulty exterior door handles or locks, problematic interior handles or locks, suspension issues, fuel system problems, a problem with the interior trim separate to that of handles or locks, and the engine’s turbo.
Volvo told Which? that it never compromises on safety and constantly monitors the reliability of its products, adding that it would add these survey findings to its own data to help its understanding of the customer experience.
When it came to single issue problems experienced by a high volume of owners, Which? calls for seven cars to be recalled, including the popular Nissan Qashqai (2014-onward) due to a 21.1% fault rate with batteries in 0-3 year old cars.
The other six cars with “faults so prolific” that Which? wants customers to have them fixed free of charge included two more Nissans — the Pulsar (2014-2018, batteries) and Juke (2010-2019, diesel fuel system) — as well as the BMW 5 Series Touring (2010-2017, suspension), Tesla Model S (2013-onward, exterior door handles/locks) and two models from Land Rover — the Range Rover Velar (2017-onward, software) and Range Rover Sport (2013-onward, software).
Nissan said it is aware of some battery failure on older Nissan models and has taken steps including replacing its battery supplier. Nearly 80% of affected cars have already been fixed and it said it is committed to the highest standards of quality and reliability.
BMW said it has analysed warranty claims and found nothing unusual about suspension claims, but encouraged dissatisfied customers to contact it on 0370 505 0160, making reference to the Which? investigation.
Land Rover also said it takes product quality seriously and is introducing over-the-air updates to new products. It added that it doesn’t believe the small sample of its customers is representative of the vast majority.
Tesla appeared on this list for the second time in two years, saying it reviews every vehicle before it leaves the factory and warranties cover any repairs and replacements necessary for door handles for up to four years.
Tesla’s overall reliability was described as “shocking”, with the Model S saloon and Model X SUV both receiving the poorest mark possible for 0-3 year reliability. Owners of the more affordable Model 3, launched in 2019, reported an “incredibly high” number of faults, though these were mostly minor issues with paintwork and exterior trim. This follows a similar survey in America from J.D. Power, which ranked Tesla worst for reliability over the first three months of ownership.
When approached by Driving.co.uk, a spokesperson had no comment on the JD Power survey but pointed out that Tesla came fourth in the What Car? Reliability Survey 2019, with a score of 96.9%, behind only Lexus, Toyota and Suzuki. The Model 3 was also rated the most reliable executive car by What Car? in 2020, with a score of 99.4%.
Either way, reliability doesn’t appear to be affecting brand loyalty: in June Which? reported that Tesla owners were the among the happiest customers and more likely to recommend their chosen brand than drivers of Porsches or Lexuses, which rank highly for reliability.