Currently reading: Faulty car software 'putting drivers at risk'
Significant system faults are increasingly common, particularly in VW Group models

Faulty software is putting car owners unknowingly at risk, with issues not noticeable “until they fail to work in an emergency”.

These are the words of Ian Ferguson, founder of consumer advocate company Reject My Car, after Autocar readers shared their stories of close calls when tech went haywire.

Readers wrote in following Autocar’s own experience of software issues with three Audi Q4 E-trons, which ranged from active safety systems being disabled to the digital speedometer disappearing.

During an 11-month period, a Q4 E-tron 40, a Q4 E-tron 40 Sportback and a Q4 E-tron 50 Sportback being tested by Autocar all experienced problems. Audi’s technicians couldn’t trace the cause of the issues within the first two cars and the third was unexamined.

Ferguson said Volkswagen Group cars account for more than half of the complaints about faulty software his firm is handling – something backed up by our readers’ letters.

Reader Richard Mikula told Autocar: “Several days after we collected our new Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Style, messages started to appear informing us of various electrical issues. We were advised that these would all be resolved once the software had been updated [over the air]. Shortly after, the car reverted to factory settings and came to a halt.”

Volkswagen golf 2020 front quarter cornering

And this wasn’t all. A few days later, the system indicated a “major electrical error” and told Mikula’s wife to stop driving before the car “died on her”.

Mikula said that despite various software updates, his Golf is still faulty. 

“We won’t be replacing it with another Volkswagen Group model,” he concluded.

This is precisely the outcome that Thomas Schäfer, new CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, has said he wants to avoid. 

Speaking earlier this month to Autocar, Schäfer said he wants to make Volkswagen “a loved brand again”.

Back to top

He added: “VW is on a steep learning curve with the likes of over-the-air software [updates]. It has been a challenge, but we’ve made good strides with new voice control and Travel Assist.”

For many owners of Volkswagen Group cars, though, progress can’t come quickly enough.

Another Autocar reader, Terry Osborn, who owned an Audi A3 Saloon, said: “On my journey home, it suffered from three system crashes. A couple of weeks later, it experienced more, plus various warning lights.”

Kia niro 2022 front tracking

Osborn said Audi had been unable to fix his car so he had rejected it, instead opting for a new Kia Niro.

He added that he was so dismayed by the issues that plagued his A3 Saloon that he would never buy an Audi again, having been a customer for decades. This was his 11th Audi.

Autocar forwarded readers’ letters to the Volkswagen Group for its response. 

A spokesman said: “Our customer care teams continue to work with the open cases highlighted to find solutions as quickly as possible, as our priority is to ensure customer satisfaction.”

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Chris-Wal 26 March 2023

My daughter has recently experienced a really dangerous software issue is her Audi Q4 Etron when driving herself and her baby on a stretch of the M1 which had no hard shoulder. There was a sudden power failure. She had an HGV behind her but fortunately was able to switch on hazard lights and drive onto a small grassy verge before seeking refuge in the trees. The vehicle was able to be restarted but local Audi dealer could not pinpoint a fault code on their software. She is left in doubt as to whether care is safe to drive

Pthompson 20 September 2022

VW has form when it comes to dodgy software. Dieselgate was a software thing, it's so called dieselgate "fix" was revised software that had serious flaws which it chose to deny and blame customers for. It was well reported that sales of the ID3 were halted due to software issues so you'd wonder why anyone would want one even when they claimed the software issues were sorted. Given VWs lack of customer service or understanding of the issues customers are experiencing, it will take a mammoth step change in its attitude to customers for it to keep on top of the customer service issues, never mind the actual software. They chose to move to far too fast to try to bury dieselgate but it's quietly backfiring in what appears to be a potentially very dangerous way. 

autoindustryinsider 13 September 2022

“If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen”


jason_recliner 14 September 2022

We'd all be cripples.