BMW Knew About Defective Parts 14 Months Before Recall

  • By Choi Won-woo

    August 14, 2018 10:51

    Documents submitted to the Environment Ministry reveal that BMW knew about defects in the exhaust gas recirculation module in March 2017, 14 months before recalling affected cars in June this year over a series of spontaneous engine fires.

    According to a status report obtained by Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Shin Bo-ra of the National Assembly's Environment and Labor Committee on Monday, the German automaker informed the government in March 2017 that problems with the EGR were detected in 2,412 BMW 535d and other diesel models.

    In the report, BMW said blockages appear to be forming in the internal valves in the EGR cooling system. Asked by the Environment Ministry to provide a detailed explanation of the defect, BMW submitted additional document last October, saying that coolant fluid from the EGR could leak into the exhaust valves and result in blockages by causing soot on the surface of the cooling system.

    It added that in rare cases the EGR cooling system would not be able to withstand the heat and rupture.

    That is the same reason it gave recently for the cause of 520ds catching fire in Korea. The EGR cooling system in the two models is the same. 

    BMWs line up for safety checks in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province on Monday.

    "It looks like BMW knew about the problems since March last year but took no specific steps for more than a year claiming to be investigating the exact cause," a car expert said.

    But a BMW Korea staffer said, "We were aware of the possibility of damage caused by defects in the EGR cooling system but we were not fully aware of the potential for fires."

    Other experts said BMW may have made a mistake by using software that excessively pumps up the operating rate of the EGR.

    During the Volkswagen emission scandal in 2016, the Environment Ministry inspected 20 diesel models, and the BMW 520d was the only one that met the government's 0.08 g/km limit for nitrogen oxide emissions. It registered emission levels of only 0.07 g/km, much lower than the average 0.48 g/km of the other 19 models.

    But the EGR's basic function is the same, experts say, regardless of the brand, so the difference is the software setting. In other words, BMW may have dialed up the setting to dangerous levels to meet emission requirements, causing the cooling system to go haywire.

    Meanwhile, another BMW caught on fire on Monday, and it was not on the list of models being recalled. It was the BMW 39th fire in Korea this year.

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