August 16, 2018 13:21
The government has grounded some 20,000 BMWs over a series of unexplained spontaneous fires, the latest on Wednesday.
Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kim Hyun-mee said on Tuesday, "The driving ban will go into effect the moment the orders issued by local municipalities across the country are delivered to the car owners."
"It is an inevitable measure to keep people safe," she added. "We ask the affected BMW owners to cooperate with authorities despite some inconvenience to prevent bigger accidents."
Some 20,000 out of the 106,317 BMW cars subject to the recall had not been inspected as of midnight Tuesday. The ministry said that the driving ban aims to encourage owners to undergo safety inspections rather than punish them and for the time being it will not apply regulations that make those who ignore the government orders punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to W10 million (US$1=W1,130).
But car owners can be held accountable if their car catches fire while they ignore the driving ban, the ministry warned.
On Wednesday, a BMW X1 that is not subject to the recall and was driven by a 28-year-old man caught fire on the road in Imsil, North Jeolla Province in the small hours. Of the 40 BMWs that have caught fire this year, 11 are not covered by the recall.
The driver pulled over to the side of the road and called 119 when he noticed smoke emerging from the hood. It soon went up in flames and burned out completely, but no one was hurt. The car was manufactured in April 2012, but only X1s produced between June 2012 and February 2014 are subject to the recall.
Police and firefighters are investigating the exact cause since the driver testified he had only been driving for about 20 minutes.
A BMW staffer said, "He seems to have been using generic auto parts, and that could be the cause."
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