In September, after 7 years of trouble-free motoring with my Mondeo (my third Mondeo in a row – all from the excellent Abernethys Ford dealers in Midleton, East Cork), I decided to change, and I bought a new Nissan Qashqai from Kearys, Kinsale Road Roundabout, Cork.
Within a couple of days it started to display a message on the dashboard: “Stop/Start System Fault”.
The Stop/Start system is a fuel-saving, eco-friendly feature whereby when one is stopped in traffic or at traffic lights, in neutral gear, the engine cuts out and is re-activated when you press the clutch. It is very common in new cars of all makes.
It never worked in my Qashqai.
Naturally, I brought the car back to Kearys. I assumed this was a minor matter. After about 30 minutes I got the car back and the Service Manager told me that should it recur to bring it back in two weeks and they would have a software update to fix it permanently.
Within a few hours the fault message appeared again.
This was very annoying. A brand new car should not have any faults. In nearly 40 years of motoring I have never bought a car, new or second-hand, that had a fault on delivery (or for a very long time afterwards).
Until I bought a Nissan.
But it gets worse.
On 27th September I drove to my house to collect a few items. I parked the car and took the key out of the ignition ( I had to as my house key was on the same keyring and there was no one in the house). In my model of the Qashqai this automatically activates the electronic park-brake (it doesn’t have a manual hand-brake). There was no one else in the car.
I also, as was my previous practice with all my other cars, left the gear in neutral. (There is nothing in the handbook advising drivers not to do so.)
I left the driver’s door slightly ajar as I was only going to be in the house for a few minutes and then be on my way.
When I came out I found to my horror that the car had rolled backwards and had come to a stop by virtue of the door getting caught in a large shrub.
In the process, the door was bent forwards so much that the catch-strap attaching it to the chassis had snapped and part of the metal on the outside of the door was buckled. This is a re-creation of what it looked like:
I can only shudder when I think of what might have happened had that shrub not acted as a brake – the car could have rolled on to the adjoining road with possible catastrophic consequences.
I once again took the car back to Kearys to report the matter and to get the Stop/Start system fault repaired.
They had the car for two days.
They were still unable to fix the Stop/Start fault. I was told it would take another four to six weeks before they could get the software patch from the UK.
Which I find incredible.
It’s not as if I bought some obscure model of a rare car make. The Qashqai is very popular and this particular model has been out for nearly two years.
And yet Kearys have been unable to fix it. Surely a software patch could be downloaded in minutes, hours at the most? But weeks? It must be a very serious fault in the Qashqai if it takes so long. Nor is it a fault peculiar to my car. A Google search shows that it is a common one with owners here and in the UK complaining about it (and several complaining also that the fault recurred after the software patch remedy).
As regards the more worrying park-brake failure, their response was that no fault occurred as their diagnostic check failed to find any.
In denying that any fault occurred with the park-brake, Kearys are effectively saying that I am lying in describing what happened, that it must have come about some other way. How exactly? I would have had to sit in the driver’s seat with the door open, turn on the ignition, put the car into reverse and ignore the fact that the door was being nearly wrenched from its hinges as I drove backwards. A likely scenario? Of course not.
I have been driving for nearly 40 years; I have never had an accident, nor a conviction, nor a penalty point. I am a boringly safe driver. I am not one to make such stupid driving mistakes.
Most such door damage is caused when someone opens the door in the face of traffic and another vehicle crashes into it. There was no other vehicle near my car when the damage was caused. The impact impression of the door on the shrub is still visible and was remarked upon by the insurance assessor who examined the car at my house.
It seems to me that the park-brake failure was related to the pre-existing Stop/Start fault. I have been advised that a car’s electronics are all related – a fault in, or damage to, one part for instance can often have a knock-on effect on another, seemingly unconnected, part. The fault in the electronics caused some momentary, one-off, de-activation of the park-brake and it rolled back.
Also, a Google search resulted in an almost identical case occurring in the UK last year – a Qashqai with an electronic park-brake rolled back in a high-rise car park and damaged another parked vehicle.
Nissan UK also denied any fault occurred.
Nissan’s mantra appears to be: deny, deny, deny.
I wrote a very long detailed letter to Kearys and copied it to James McCarthy, CEO of Nissan Ireland in Dublin threatening legal action under the terms of the Sale of Goods Act. I was, after all, sold a faulty vehicle.
There was no response.
I then got my solicitor to write and this resulted in a very brief and blunt two-paragraph letter from Kearys confirming they were still waiting for the Stop/Start software patch and denying any fault with the park-brake. Not a word of regret or apology for the trouble I have been experiencing with the car.
Much as I would like to, I am not going to take any further legal action as to do so would incur enormous costs and a long delay not to mention the stress of the whole thing. Kearys have deep pockets; I don’t.
I am arranging to have the door replaced but I am not going through Kearys to do so as the least I have to do with them from now on, the better. The cost will be €1800 which will be paid for by my insurance company subject to an excess of €150. No doubt, my No Claims Discount will be affected in due course.
In dealing with Kearys I am reminded of this paragon of the motor-trade:
I am still waiting for this famous software fix. I have a mental image of a team of IT experts slaving long hours trying to come up with a solution. Which is fantasy, of course, but I would love to know what the real story is.
My advice if you are considering buying a new Qashqai is: don’t. Or if you really want to, go to a dealer who specialises in Nissan and who has the necessary technical expertise. Kearys sell six different car makes.
Based on my experience I would not recommend the car. There is a real possibility that you too will encounter the Stop/Start system fault and it will do your head in seeing the error message flash up on the display every time you start it.
And if you have one, NEVER LEAVE THE CAR IN NEUTRAL WHEN PARKED in case the electronic park-brake should momentarily fail and the car rolls backwards. Always engage first gear, as I do now.
Nissan of course will deny that any such fault can *possibly* occur.
And we all know from recent events how ethical, honest and trustworthy the car industry is, don’t we?