Gov't Needs Another 10 Months to Probe Mysterious BMW Fires

  • By Choi Won-woo

    August 03, 2018 10:50

    Another BMW 520d caught fire on Thursday after the German automaker agreed to recall thousands of cars sold in Korea. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it will take roughly 10 months to determine the cause of the fires even though BMW has already proffered a conclusion.

    Kim Kyung-wook at the ministry told reporters on Thursday, "We need more time to investigate the issue. It will take around 10 months."

    BMW will submit documents to the ministry on Friday to prove that the exhaust gas recirculation module in its diesel engines is to blame. But Kim said the ministry will determine whether or not to announce BMW's claims after reviewing the material.

    Experts are incredulous that it should take so long. Kim Pil-soo at Daelim University said, "It makes no sense to take 10 months when public safety is at stake." Another expert said, "The government must publish the documents BMW provides and seek the help of private-sector experts in determining the cause of the problem as soon as possible."

    A BMW 520d is on fire on an expressway in Wonju, Gangwon Province on Thursday.

    Critics warn that the ministry's lack of resources could tempt it to accept BMW's internal investigation.

    The key point of the probe is to secure the parts of the BMWs that have caught fire, but most of them are sitting in BMW service centers. The government has so far managed to seize only one of them.

    The ministry also lacks expertise on EGR components but is not cooperating with the Ministry of Environment, which has some knowhow from probing the emissions-rigging mechanisms in the Volkswagen scandal.

    The ministry and BMW are accused of doing nothing until May, by which time 16 BMWs had spontaneously combusted. The ministry promised to look into why it took so long to launch an investigation. If BMW dragged its heels deliberately, it could face fines of up to W70 billion (US$1=W1,129).

    So far this year 28 BMWs have caught fire, at a rate of one a day over the last three days.

    The engine compartment of a BMW 520d that was driving down a highway in Wonju, Gangwon Province caught fire on Thursday. The 29-year-old driver said, "I stopped the car on the shoulder of the highway because the accelerator failed to work and soon after flames shot out of the front of the car."

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