BMW spokesman Rob Mitchell said BMW became aware of the problem recently when owners of a small number of 2001-model vehicles reported fires. No one was injured in any of the incidents. Mitchell said it was likely only a small number of the recalled vehicles were outfitted with the faulty switch.
“Typically, this shows up very early on—within the first 200 miles,” said Mitchell. “The fan doesn’t work so either the engine overheats or the fan control unit overheats. If a customer notices any sign of overheating, they should shut down the car immediately and call roadside assistance.”
BMW plans to begin notifying owners by mail in mid-July—once replacement parts are available. Mitchell said dealers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were notified of the planned recall in mid-June.
Vehicles possibly fitted with the bad electronic control unit include: 3 Series with manual transmissions built between Feb. 1 and April 30; 7 Series built between Nov. 1, 2000, and Jan. 8, 2001; X5s built between Dec. 18, 2000, and April 30, 2001; and Z8s built between Jan. 1 and April 30. The recalled vehicles represent a little more than 10 percent of BMW’s annual U.S. sales of cars and light trucks.
Florida resident Bill Morrow can attest to two cases of BMW X5 models catching fire. In one case, a friend with a one-month-old X5 with 3800 miles on it started on fire in a West Palm Beach theater parking lot. Morrow and his friend extinguished the blaze before it caused major damage.
The X5 of Morrow’s father also caught fire—three days after he bought it and with only 200 miles on the odometer. Morrow found several other cases were reported on the Internet website www.bimmer.org, but BMW dealers told him they were unaware of a problem. The Internet reports centered on X5 fires, with all the incidents occurring with less than 600 miles on the vehicles. One occurred with just 108 miles on the two-day-old SUV. The site showed pictures of an X5 demolished by fire, allegedly due to the cooling fan switch failure.
“If you’re going to wait another two to four weeks (to notify owners of a recall), somebody could die, or their house could burn down,” Morrow said.
Mitchell defended BMW’s plan to notify owners once parts are available, considering the relatively low risk of a fire. He said BMW doesn’t want to encourage owners to seek repairs until adequate replacement parts are in stock at dealerships.
BMW has asked dealers to repair or not sell any vehicles on their lots that are covered by the upcoming recall. “Anything that falls under that production time, dealers are identifying the vehicles and fixing them before they are sold,” Mitchell said.
NHTSA spokesman Tim Hurd said it was reasonable to delay notifying owners until parts are available, but at the same time the company has a responsibility to act quickly if consumers could be endangered “Owners should discuss with BMW dealers where they should park their cars,” Hurd said, an obvious warning to avoid parking your BMW next to your irreplaceable classics in the garage of your multi-million dollar home.
Owners with questions or concerns are asked to call BMW North America at (800) 831-1117.
This was released this morning. Just letting you know.