BMW apologises for engine fires that sparked South Korean probe
The carmaker is being sued by 17 owners for damages, according to a lawyer representing them, and dozens more are set to start legal action soon
German carmaker BMW apologised on Monday for engine fires in South Korea that angered consumers and sparked a government investigation into an alleged delay in recalling more than 100,000 cars.
More than 30 BMWs – mostly the 520d model – have caught fire this year in South Korea, forcing the firm to issue a recall last month to fix a faulty component that was aimed at reducing emissions from diesel engines.
“We offer our sincere apology with our heads down for causing concern and anxiety among customers, the public and the government due to recent fire accidents,” said Kim Hyo-joon, head of BMW’s Korea unit. “We also offer a sincere apology … to customers who suffered the latest fire accidents.”
Kim was speaking at a press conference in Seoul where he bowed his head deeply in front of television cameras.
The comment came hours after the transport ministry issued a “grave call” for the beleaguered carmaker to respond to the latest scandal in a “more responsible manner”.
The ministry also vowed last week to launch a state probe into the German titan’s response to the incidents, warning of “stern measures” if any problems were found.
BMW blamed a faulty component called the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler that generated excessive sediment and caused engines to catch fire, and said the problem was “not Korea specific”.
“A similar rate [of failure] was observed in other jurisdictions,” said Johann Ebenbichler, vice-president of BMW for quality, without naming the other places.
The carmaker also used the same software and hardware for vehicles sold in Europe, he said, and the firm had decided to undertake the “same campaigns” there as in South Korea.
The recall in South Korea, which applies to 42 models using diesel engines, is expected to begin on August 20.
Images of BMW vehicles bursting into flames have made headlines in the South and now some car parks are refusing to accept the cars due to fears they will catch fire.
The firm is being sued by 17 BMW owners for damages said Ha Jong-seon, a lawyer representing them, adding that dozens of other owners were set to start legal action soon.
In South Korea, six out of 10 imported cars are from Germany.
BMW sold nearly 39,000 BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce cars in the first six months of this year, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.