It is a problem that Watchdog flagged up over four years ago, and it seems that little has been done since. But perhaps now that the British actor Richard E Grant has gotten involved in the ongoing debate, we might just start to see a solution.
I’m talking about the BMW Mini and a problem which affects the power steering. Without warning, in Minis manufactured between 2001 and 2007, the steering can lock up, making turning the steering wheel extremely difficult. Now drivers of old cars without power steering might be wondering what all the fuss is about, but power steering is crucial to manoeuvring modern cars and is so important that if it fails, control becomes extremely difficult.
The first Grant found out about this problem was when his daughter got in touch with him, after the Mini he had gifted to her for her 21st birthday developed this very same problem, whilst she was driving on the motorway.
Thankfully his daughter managed to manoeuvre off the motorway without serious incident, but it was the attitude of BMW Mini that was to get Grant’s ire going. His daughter dealt with the company after reading reports online about similar steering locking problems that other Mini drivers were experiencing. She was given short shift by BMW’s customer service team, until that is, Grant stepped in and publicly humiliated them on his Twitter page.
Once he had tagged in their Twitter name, thus making sure they were aware of the tweets he was posting, he received a call from BMW Mini advising him that is was indeed a manufacturing fault, and they would carry out the repair free of charge. They also sent his daughter a bouquet of flowers, in the way of an apology.
But hang on, what about the other 200,000 Mini drivers that have the same problem? They are all being told that it is not a manufacturing fault, and they are faced with garage bills of around £800 for the repair. Plus a typical rescue call out of a couple of hundred pounds, you are talking a grand for a fault that is not of their making.
So what do you do if you do not have the clout of an iconic British actor? Well, apparently, you should take heart from a statement issued by BMW Mini: ‘Mini UK strives to provide the best possible service to its customers and is concerned when they are not satisfied with their cars.
We can appreciate that the issues these Mini owners experienced can be disturbing, but we have thoroughly investigated the cases of each customer, and worked hard to eradicate the issues described. As with all modern cars, power steering systems are an added support function that makes steering easier, especially at slow speeds, when parking for example.
They are not an essential component of steering systems and cars can be driven perfectly safely without power steering assistance. However, Mini UK takes such incidents very seriously and has worked closely with the independent regulatory bodies who have liaised with us on the most appropriate route to take with this issue.’
You might be interested to learn however, that Mini US takes customer safety much more seriously, as they will replace the power steering free of charge in the States and Canada.
For your information, the Minis affected by the powering steering problem are:
- Mini One, Mini Cooper and Cooper S cars sold between 2001 and 2005
- Mini convertibles and Mini Hatch cars sold in 2006 and Mini Convertibles sold in 2007.
If you are worried about your Mini, contact the Mini UK Customer Service line on 0800 777129.