Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 7)

All News 07:02 August 07, 2018

BMW under fire
Disregard of driver safety blamed for vehicle fires

Thirty-two BMWs have so far caught fire this year, heightening concerns about the safety of imported German brand. The continuing BMW fires have also prompted protests from car owners over the automaker's blatant disregard for driver safety and consumer interests.

Eighteen of the burned-out vehicles are 520d models which are popular among rich Koreans. But the problem is not confined to the diesel-powered sedans as some gasoline models have also burst into flames.

The German carmaker deserves criticism for taking only stopgap measures to fix the problem. Such measures even came belatedly, without paying much heed to complaints by BMW owners. This means the automaker has done little to put consumers first and protect their safety.

In late July, BMW Korea announced a voluntary recall of its 42 fire-prone models, including the 520d, to fix a faulty component that has reportedly caused the fires in the engine compartments. A total of 106,317 vehicles will be subject to recall. But the company appeared to have made the recall reluctantly and belatedly in the face of mounting protests from not only the drivers of the vehicles in question, but also other consumers.

More disappointing is that it will take about one month for the company to start with the recall. This means owners of the affected cars have to wait until Aug. 20 to get their cars fixed. What's more serious is that BMW Korea has yet to find the exact cause behind the fires.

The company presumed the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system as the main cause of the fires in the engine compartment of the 520d models. The system is designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines. BMW Korea seems to believe that when re-circulating the exhaust gas to the engine, the gas re-entered the manifold pipe without being cooled, melting a hole that caused the fire.

But the question is why the fires took place only in Korea although BMWs with the EGR system have been sold in many other countries. The firm has not explained why fires also occurred in gasoline models.

Some automotive experts are raising the possibility that software operating the EGR may have caused the problem. They claim the carmaker set the software programs inadvertently or excessively to meet Korea's emissions regulations.

To pinpoint the exact cause, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced Sunday a plan to investigate the BMW fire cases in cooperation with nongovernmental experts. So the state-run Korea Transportation Safety Authority, which is solely responsible for determining the cause of car-related problems, will work together with private sector experts to ensure the transparency of the investigation.

However, the ministry cannot avoid criticism for not taking timely and appropriate measures to prevent the mishap of BMWs. Last Friday, Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mi told owners of the to-be-recalled BMW cars to avoid driving them until they get a safety checkup by an after-sales service center. She has come under attack for passing the buck to consumers.

Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!