“(We advise) owners of the vehicles subject for recall to receive a safety check up as soon as possible and refrain from driving the vehicle until safety is ensured,” said Sohn Byeong-seok, the first transport vice minister.
While apologizing for causing public concern, the vice minister said that the government would conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the engine fires. The ministry also said it would look into whether responsive measures by BMW Korea and related government agencies were adequate.
Last month, BMW Korea voluntarily recalled 106,317 units of the 520d sedan and 41 other models due to a faulty exhaust gas recirculation module igniting engine fires on 31 BMW vehicles in the course of eight months. But cases of BMW vehicles catching fire in motion have been continued, intensifying safety concerns about the luxury German vehicles.
On Thursday, the ministry said it began an investigation on whether the exhaust gas recirculation module or the system was at fault based on BMW’s technical analysis.
The process is expected to take about 10 months. BMW Korea may face roughly 70 billion won ($61.9 million) in fines, according to industry insiders.
Meanwhile, a second group of BMW car owners on Friday sued BMW Korea along with its dealers over defective parts causing financial and psychological harm.
According to law firm Bareun, which is representing the case, following four BMW car owners that sued the German carmaker earlier this week, 13 BMW owners took the same step and filed a lawsuit against BMW Korea and five official dealers including Dongsung Motors, Handok Motors, and Deutsch Motors.
Although neither groups experienced engine fires, plaintiffs are seeking compensation for financial and mental harm caused by the series of BMW sedans catching fire.
“We are not able to use the vehicles until they are completely fixed, and even after the recall, the danger of a fire lingers, so we have lost the benefit of using the car,” according to the petition written by BMW owners.
They argued dangers of engine fire would continue after the recall, as the EGR module is not the cause of the fire and that BMW is trying to cover up the real cause.
Class action suit is not recognized under the Korean law. A growing number of BMW owners joining the move is seen as a de facto class suit, according to industry insiders.
Based on the enlarged EGR cooler and altered design of the EGR valve equipped in 2017 model year BMW vehicles, Ha Jong-sun, lawyer representing both groups said, “In general designing auto parts takes place about a year before actual installation, which means BMW Korea was aware of the defect between the end of 2015 and early 2016.”
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)