And this might only be the beginning.
Over the past several months, BMW has been the subject of an investigation by the South Korean government over allegedly concealing engine fires and the clear hazards they pose. Because BMW’s response to the allegations has not been deemed suitable, South Korea’s transportation ministry will now ask prosecutors to investigate the automaker over the fires and delayed recalls.
On top of that, Korea has fined BMW $10 million for a delayed recall affecting 22,670 vehicles. Korean investigators have been working since last August and have since found engine defects that can cause coolant to leak, thus resulting in an engine fire. So far in 2018, 40 cases of BMW engine fires have been reported.
Bloomberg points out BMW did recall 1.6 million vehicles globally over this specific issue but, clearly, that was not good enough for the Korean government. BMW’s Korea division has gone on record apologizing for everything that’s happened and since the government’s announcement has agreed to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Korea’s investigative team claims it found a fault in the design of BMW’s Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) unit, which sparked the fires. BMW, however, denies any design defects and claims it recalled affected vehicles as required by law. “We embarked on recall measures without hesitation at the time when the root cause of fires was confirmed,” BMW's Korean unit said.
However, these fires have not caused any injuries or fatalities, and BMW claims the issue can be fixed by simply swapping out the faulty hardware. The first engine fires were reported in May 2017 and have since affected 65 different models, including diesel variants of the latest generation 5 Series.
Bloomberg adds that the rate of BMWs catching fire was 0.14 percent in South Korea, 0.19 percent in Germany and 0.17 percent in the UK. But why is South Korea taking such a tough stance against BMW while other countries have yet to do so? Some theorize it may partially have to do with the fact that BMW, as well as other German automakers, have made steady sales gains in South Korea over the past few years, a country typically dominated by domestic brands, specifically Hyundai. Now that South Korea has free trade deals with the EU and US, Hyundai and others have to contend with an influx of new competitors.