Despite continued experiences of parked BMWs bursting into flames, the federal government watchdog for automotive security doesn’t have an energetic investigation into potential causes.
Consumers have filed greater than 90 complaints concerning the challenge to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, together with 30 since , prompting critics to name for a federal probe.
According to Jason Levine, the manager director on the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, NHTSA is failing in its obligation to guard shoppers.
“These BMWs have [had] these fire problems for a very long time,” Levine instructed ABC News. “They’ve taken a very long time to respond to them. And it doesn’t seem that they’re getting to the bottom of the problem.”
BMW insists that automobile fires may end up from quite a lot of exterior causes “unrelated to product defects.” In 2017, an organization spokesperson recommended a number of different potential causes of automobile fires, together with an absence of upkeep, improper upkeep by unauthorized mechanics, aftermarket modifications, rodent nesting and even arson.
“In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause,” a BMW spokesperson instructed ABC News, “we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure.”
Since ABC News’ preliminary report in 2017, the corporate has issued 4 fire-related remembers throughout varied years and fashions.
The luxurious automaker wasn’t the one car producer to take that step. Car producers collectively have issued 62 parked-car-fire-related remembers since 2017. Just final month, for instance, Hyundai and Kia recalled 168,000 autos for hearth threat.
But whereas U.S. regulators have declined to research, BMW has confronted scrutiny elsewhere. The firm was lately fined $9.9 million by the South Korean authorities after its transport ministry decided officers had tried to cowl up technical issues associated to dozens of engine fires in diesel automobiles and moved too slowly to recall affected autos.
“I think what is particularly scary is that there’s no [U.S.] watchdog out there that BMW is afraid of,” Levine instructed ABC News. “The only thing literally keeping BMW’s feet to the fire, forgive the pun, is going to be outside lawsuits. That’s not how it should work.”
In response to questions from ABC News, a NHTSA spokesperson mentioned the company is “in close contact with BMW in its oversight of automaker’s recalls that involve a potential fire risk, and will take appropriate action if warranted.”
Representatives for BMW have declined repeated requests for interviews, however the firm has issued statements saying that “with approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are very rare. … BMW takes every incident very seriously.”
ABC News and ABC-owned stations across the nation have uncovered greater than 50 experiences of fires in parked BMWs that weren’t the topic of a fire-related recall on the time of the incident.
In October 2017, Laura Ohme mentioned she and her two sons, Max and Eli, have been compelled to flee their San Diego, California, residence when her 2014 BMW X5 ignited whereas it was parked and turned off in her storage.
“The explosion blew out [the] garage door,” Ohme instructed ABC News. “Anyone really walking down the street could have been hit.”
The household escaped unhurt, however the ensuing hearth destroyed their residence. Fire investigators have been capable of pinpoint her lately bought BMW because the source of the blaze.
“We’re not the only family that has lost everything because of a BMW car fire,” Ohme mentioned. “Fix the problem.”
Virginia Chamlee’s mentioned her 2005 BMW X5 ignited because it was parked and turned off in her driveway in Jacksonville, Florida, in July 2018. She reported the fireplace to BMW instantly however she mentioned the corporate by no means got here to examine it.
“The woman I spoke with suggested that either I drove the car too much or I drove the car too little,” Chamlee instructed ABC News. “I left the conversation feeling like nothing was going to get done.”
And when Lynn Wrench obtained a recall discover for her 2011 BMW 328i xDrive in 2017, it arrived with a complicated caveat: “Remedy Unavailable.” She mentioned she known as the corporate and spoke to a consultant.
“He said they didn’t have a solution yet,” Wrench instructed ABC News. “And that would notify me when they did.”
But greater than six months later, whereas she was nonetheless ready for a repair, her automobile ignited, she mentioned, whereas it was parked and turned off in her hometown of Colgate, Wisconsin. Although the car was unsalvageable, BMW solely supplied Wrench a $3,000 rebate on a brand new or pre-owned BMW, reimbursement for a rental automobile and a further $1,500 settlement — a deal that got here with one main stipulation.
“They wanted me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I would’t even be able to talk with you about this. Or anybody,” Wrench mentioned. “Why would I do that?”
Wrench is not the one BMW proprietor who obtained a recall discover bearing the phrases “Remedy Unavailable.”
James McManus of Temple, Texas obtained a recall discover for his 2011 BMW 550i in June 2018, advising him that the corporate was “not ready to perform this recall on your vehicle,” however “BMW recommends parking your vehicle outdoors until repairs have been performed.”
It was too late. His BMW had already ignited whereas he mentioned it was parked and turned off in his storage two years prior, damaging his residence and forcing him and his then-pregnant spouse to relocate throughout repairs.
BMW mentioned it was “out of abundance of caution” that it made that suggestion and insisted that the corporate “worked diligently to secure an adequate supply of parts so that affected vehicle can be fixed as quickly as possible.”
Joseph Santoli, a New Jersey-based lawyer who’s sued BMW up to now, instructed ABC News he has been contacted by many offended BMW house owners exploring their authorized choices after reporting that their parked automobiles caught hearth.
He slammed the automaker for “dragging their feet” and urged federal regulators to make the difficulty a precedence earlier than it turns lethal.
“NHTSA needs to bring pressure, as much pressure as they can bring on BMW,” Santoli mentioned, “to repair recalled vehicles as a quickly as possible so that these fires don’t happen anymore.”
The penalties will be devastating. Bill Macko, a topic of ABC News’ unique report, was a loyal BMW buyer till his 2008 BMW X5 out of the blue and inexplicably caught hearth in 2015 because it sat parked in his storage in Olney, Maryland.
The ensuing blaze leveled his residence, and greater than three years later, he and his spouse are nonetheless displaced.
“It’s turned everything upside down,”Macko instructed ABC News. “In all honesty, it makes you angry. And I don’t know if I could ever get rid of the anger. It’s just so frustrating to realize that three years of your life have been basically put on hold.”
ABC News’ Shannon Crawford, Emily Ruchalski and Jinsol Jung contributed to this report.