[Newsmaker] Ministry to look into BMW software manipulation allegation

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Aug 13, 2018 - 15:48
  • Updated : Aug 13, 2018 - 18:04

Amid doubts raised by critics and skeptical consumers that BMW may have manipulated its exhaust gas recirculation software to meet emissions regulations, causing engine fires, the government said Monday it will conduct tests on various BMW vehicles to look into all possibilities.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will examine the amount of gas emissions from recalled BMW cars that have received a safety checkup and those that have not yet received the inspection along with vehicles that are not affected by the recall for comparison in emissions figures reported to the government.

“We will investigate all possibilities and questions raised regarding BMW engine fires, including doubts over software manipulation,” the ministry said.

BMW cars subject for recall wait in line for emergency safety check up at a BMW service center in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Despite the automaker’s repeated and strong denials, speculation has continued that the repeated engine fires in some of its models were an issue beyond a faulty part but of a manipulated electronic control unit that controls the EGR and exhaust-related auto parts.

Automotive engineering professor Kim Pil-soo at Daelim University has been one of the critics arguing a software error may have caused the fires, saying, “There is a chance that BMW had set up the EGR software to reduce excessive amounts of gas emissions. Defective hardware does not explain why engine fires occur so frequently in Korea and not anywhere else.”

Hinting at the possibility of suspending operation of vehicles subject to recall but that have not received a safety check, Second Vice Minister of the Transport Ministry Kim Jeong-ryeol said, “The ministry will cooperate with municipal governments to quickly resolve public anxiety over BMW.” Under the automobile management act, municipal governments have the right to suspend vehicles.

Of some 106,000 BMW vehicles recalled last month, 72,188 units have been cleared through safety checks slated to be completed by Tuesday, the ministry said.

BMW Korea Chairman Kim Hyo-joon (right) and ruling Democratic Party floor leader Hong Young-pyo at an urgent briefing held at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)

Amid snowballing public concern over BMW engine fires, Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee had said last week the government would consider suspending BMW vehicles that have not been cleared for safety.

A growing number of buildings and apartments have been seen making separate parking spots for BMW cars and in some cases rejecting BMW vehicles from entering their property.

Second Vice Minister Kim’s remarks came during an urgent briefing held by the National Assembly’s Land, Infrastructure & Transport Committee, attended by BMW Chairman Kim Hyo-joon, the second vice minister and lawmakers from the ruling party.

BMW chairman Kim repeated the carmaker’s stance that EGR cooler leakage to be the key cause of the engine fire. Johann Ebenbichler, BMW’s vice president for quality management, said faulty hardware accompanied by high vehicle mileage, constant driving at high speeds for a long period time and an open bypass valve could lead to fires.

Despite BMW’s wide range of efforts to expedite emergency checks on recalled vehicles ahead of the recall, another BMW vehicle -- the 2015 model year BMW 520d -- caught fire in Hannam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday evening. The vehicle had not yet undergone a safety checkup.

According to an analysis by Rep. Min Kyung-wook of the Liberty Korea Party, 1.5 out of 10,000 BMW vehicles experienced fires in the first half of this year. That was claimed to be the largest number of vehicles burned among surveyed carmakers. GM Korea followed with 1.24 units burned and Hyundai Motor at 1.18 units.

The EGR cooler and module will be replaced with new ones while EGR pipes will be cleaned in the recall starting Aug. 20.

By Kim Bo-gyung (

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