Parked BMWs have been spontaneously catching fire across the country with no explanation. The owners demand answers as dozens of the luxury German cars burst into flames while the engines were OFF
- New report finds more than 40 cases of US BMWs catching fire in past five years
- In each case, the cars were parked and not under recall by the German carmaker
- Various models between one and 15 years old implicated in the ABC News report
- Similar issue reported in other countries, sparking investigation in South Korea
- BMW denies ‘any pattern related to quality or component failure’ in fires
- Luxury car company blames improper maintenance and even ‘rodents’ for fires
Concern over the safety of BMW cars is mounting in the wake of a new report that found dozens of examples of mysterious fires breaking out in vehicles that had been parked for as long as several days.
More than 40 parked BMWs that are not under an open recall have caught fire in the US over the past five years, with similar incidents in Sweden, China, India, and South Korea, the ABC News report from Thursday found.
The inexplicable fires range across several models, years, and generations of the iconic luxury brand’s vehicles, which can range in price to over $100,000.
BMW is denying that they’ve found ‘any pattern related to quality or component failure’ and says that out of the 4.9million vehicles it has on US roads, fire incidents are exceedingly rare.
After a spate of BMW fires in South Korea, a government investigation found a possible fuel leak, leading to a 1,700-car recall, but it is unknown if the American fires are related to that issue.
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A parked 2012 BMW X6 is seen engulfed in flames in Delray Beach, Florida in July 2015
In October of 2016, Tar Zaide had just parked his 2011 BMW 328 in an Oshwa, Canada parking lot on his way to visit a client when it began smoking and then burst into flames
The dramatic, sudden fires in parked cars have left dozens of drivers bereft of their prized luxury vehicles, and at least one man homeless when a car fire in his garage burned his home down.
In December of 2015, Bill Macko was in his Olney, Maryland when his wife parked their 2008 BMW X5, which originally retailed for $46,200, in the garage after a short drive,
Macko, a lifelong BMW enthusiast who had purchased seven of the high-end cars over the years, told ABC that he walked into the garage to investigate a strange smell, and heard a ‘snap, crackle, pop’ as he entered.
The car burst into flames, and Macko and his wife ran out of the house and watched as firefighters battled the inferno, which ultimately engulfed and gutted their home.
Sixteen months later, he and his wife are still staying with relatives, unsure when they will be able to return to their rebuilt home.
In another case, in New York’s Westchester County, the owner of a 2003 BMW told fire crews it had been sitting parked for three or four days before bursting into flames.
In Brookhaven, Georgia, after an unexpected snowfall in January 2014, one motorist left his BMW E36 M3 on the impassable road overnight. It burst into flames before he returned
The BMW in Brookhaven, Georgia was quickly engulfed in flames as police looked on
‘Which we thought was a little peculiar,’ Mamaroneck Fire Chief Tracey Schmaling told WABC.
In October of 2016, Tar Zaide had just parked his 2011 BMW 328 in an Oshwa, Canada parking lot on his way to visit a client when it began smoking and then burst into flames.
‘My son saved by seconds,’ wrote the person who posted a video of the fire on YouTube. ‘Cannot believe what we were seeing.’
In Brookhaven, Georgia, after an unexpected snowfall in January 2014, one motorist left his BMW E36 M3 on the impassable road overnight.
Tar Zaide had just left his 2011 BMW 328 for a few minutes when it burst into flames. Before he returned the next day, the car was engulfed in flames, the Associated Press reported.
Across the Atlantic, John Minkhe of Sweden got a rude surprise in April 2014.
‘An explosive fire started in our BMW X5 a few minutes after my wife and two kids switched off the engine and left the car,’ he explained in a post on YouTube.
The car was ‘totally flashed over’ within 10 minutes, Minkhe wrote.
‘My family has had BMW since beginning of 2000s, we thought we invested in quality and safety according to the premium brand BMW considered to be - unfortunately we were wrong,’ he added.
John Minkhe of Sweden said his BMW X5 burst into flames a few minutes after his wife and children switched off the engine and got out of the car
FIRE SCANDAL LATEST US-MARKET WOE FOR GERMAN CARMAKERS
The spate of mysterious fires in BMW vehicles is only the latest trouble for a German car manufacturer in the US market.
Volkswagon is still recovering from the 2015 ‘Dieselgate’ emissions testing scandal, in which it was found the German company had used vehicle software to intentionally trick emissions tests.
The company was sentenced in a criminal trial in April, has agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the US to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers, and has offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting US vehicles.
Mercedes, another German carmaker, announced on Tuesday that it would not seek to sell 2017 year diesel vehicles in the US due to increased regulatory scrutiny in the wake of Dieselgate.
BMW denies that there is any quality issue causing the fires not already covered by recalls. Like other automakers, BMW has issued fire-related recalls in the past.
‘In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure,’ the company said in a Wednesday statement.
‘Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons unrelated to product defect.’
The company also told ABC News that fires could be the result of any number of factors the manufacturer can’t control, including improper maintenance by unauthorized mechanics, aftermarket modifications, rodent nesting and even arson.
New Jersey attorney Joseph Santoli, who has sued BMW in the past, said several BMW owners about their cars catching fire.
‘I have heard from owners that when they confront BMW about their incident, they’re told that this is the first time that BMW has ever heard of it,’ Santoli told ABC News.
‘I think some of it is an example of BMW burying their heads in the sand,’ the attorney said.
In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encouraged motorists to report any safety issues, ‘including strange and unexplainable incidents involving their vehicles’, through the agency’s website.
FULL STATEMENT OF BMW NORTH AMERICA ON REPORTED FIRES
With approximately 4.9 million BMW vehicles on U.S. roads, fire incidents involving BMWs are very rare. BMW takes every incident very seriously and has a dedicated team prepared to work with BMW owners, insurance companies and authorities to investigate any vehicle fire incident that is brought to our attention.
We have investigated and in some cases inspected the vehicle identified by ABC News. These vehicles span an age range of 1-15 years, accumulated mileage of up to 232,250 miles and multiple generations and model types.
In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure. Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons unrelated to product defect. In addition, ABC News indicated that they had some examples in other countries, but we are unable to comment on any incidents outside of the US.