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(LEAD) Angry BMW owners to seek criminal probe against automaker over engine fires

All Headlines 17:41 August 08, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES in last 2 paras with S. Korea considering sending experts to BMW headquarters)

SEOUL, Aug. 8 (Yonhap) -- A group of BMW owners will file a complaint with police this week seeking a criminal investigation into top officials at the local unit of the German carmaker over a recent series of fires in vehicles, a law firm representing the plaintiffs said Wednesday.

Barun Law LLC said it plans to lodge a complaint on behalf of 20 BMW owners with Seoul Jungbu Police Station on Thursday.

The complaint will be made against Johann Ebenbichler, BMW's vice president on quality management, Kim Hyo-joon, chief of the South Korean unit, and four other officials and entities, in relation to alleged violation of the Automobile Management Act, the law firm said.

The local unit of the second-most popular foreign carmaker in South Korea is under scrutiny after the engines of some 27 vehicles caught fire between January and July this year, prompting a government probe amid growing criticism from consumers who blame the company for a belated response.

The complaint follows two separate filings of compensation suits lodged by two different consumer groups on July 30 and last Friday.

On Tuesday, BMW Korea apologized for the defects and for causing public concern in a press conference and pledged to recall 106,000 diesel vehicles, including the highest-selling model here, the 520d, starting later this month. It also vowed to cooperate with the forthcoming probe by the transport ministry.

Violation of the Automobile Management Act in Korea is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100 million won (US$89,400).

Meanwhile, the transport ministry looking into the case said it will consider sending a team of experts to the BMW headquarters and its assembly plant if that is deemed necessary to determine the cause of the fires, according to Rep. Hong Chul-ho of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.

Hong said the ministry made the remark in response to a query from him.

(LEAD) Angry BMW owners to seek criminal probe against automaker over engine fires - 1

elly@yna.co.kr
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