More than 130,000 BMW owners have not been warned they are driving cars at risk of bursting into flames.
BMW pledged to contact drivers about the potentially lethal fault last October but has so far issued warnings to fewer than half of owners affected.
The fault affects more than 250,000 cars in the UK – 1.6million worldwide – and can cause flammable coolant to leak on to the burning hot exhaust system near the engine, potentially triggering a fire.
More than 130,000 BMW owners have not been warned they are driving cars at risk of bursting into flames. BMW pledged to contact drivers about the potentially lethal fault last October but has so far issued warnings to fewer than half of owners affected
A ‘crackling’ noise… then the car was ablaze
Safe: Jacqueline Anthonipillai (above, with her daughter Leah) was crossing London on November 20 when her BMW 5 Series suddenly lost power and burst into flames
Jacqueline Anthonipillai only found out she was driving a potential firetrap after her BMW burst into flames.
She was crossing London on November 20 when her 5 Series suddenly lost power. On stopping, she heard a ‘crackling’ sound and smelled smoke.
Mrs Anthonipillai, 32, got out but then went back in to fetch her mobile phone.
The door then jammed, meaning she had to barge her way out.
Minutes later the car burst into flames. Videos reveal it was destroyed at the front near where the faulty module sits.
BMW has so far refused to accept liability while the wreckage is inspected. Three months after the incident, the family are waiting for the laboratory results to come back.
Mrs Anthonipillai said: ‘I feel lucky to escape and that my daughter [Leah] was not in the car. I feel scared to drive BMW alone.’
Above, Mrs Anthonipillai’s car. BMW has so far refused to accept liability while the wreckage is inspected. Three months after the incident, the family are waiting for the laboratory results to come back
The German car giant has been accused of failing to act quickly enough on the threat and is facing criminal investigation in South Korea over delays.
Last night Graham Stringer, a Labour MP on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘The facts are very disturbing. BMW has not got a very good record on safety recalls.
‘I will write to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask what action will be taken. I also hope the transport committee will look at this as life and limb is at risk.’
BMW is already facing claims it was slow to recall almost 300,000 cars last year due to a separate fault within the air conditioning system which could also cause them to catch fire.
The new safety row centres on the ‘exhaust gas recirculation’ cooler, which is designed to reduce emissions, and affects 12 BMW models.
BMW released details of the safety recall last October and said it would write to 268,000 UK customers urging them to get their vehicle checked.
But the car giant admitted that only 130,000 letters have been posted, meaning least 138,000 owners have not been personally informed.
The new safety row centres on the ‘exhaust gas recirculation’ cooler, which is designed to reduce emissions, and affects 12 BMW models
The firm could not say how many owners had taken their car into a BMW garage and said it had acted as quickly as possible.
In justification, it pointed to the numbers involved and the time taken to trace the owners via addresses from the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency.
The firm also had to agree with the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency how the affected cars can be fixed.
This has left many drivers in the dark.
The recall includes the 1 Series, 2 Series, 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series and 7 Series, as well as its X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6 SUVS – or sports utility vehicles.
BMW has stressed it is ‘extremely rare’ for this fault to cause a fire, but could not give figures on how many times it has happened.
The company has admitted the first car fire linked to this fault occurred in 2015, but insisted the cause was still unclear.
It said it became aware of the connection between the faulty EGR cooler and the fires on July 20 last year, after a ‘pattern’ was established.
But the company faces criminal investigation in South Korea and a £7million fine after dozens of car fires there. It could now face a parliamentary inquiry in the UK.
A BMW spokesman said: ‘The BMW Group is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation (in South Korea).
‘A pattern only became visible over time. Based on this, we swiftly determined a fix to eliminate the root cause.’
Neil Barlow, of the DVSA, said: ‘We continue to push BMW to make contact with owners so their cars can be assessed.’
Q&A: BMW and the firetrap risk
What’s the problem?
The fault means droplets of hot blue Glycol coolant can, in some instances, leak inside the cooler where exhaust gases flow.
This forms tiny, hot particles within the exhaust gas which can then come into contact with the manifold wall – around the air inlet to the engine.
These particles can smoulder and, in extreme cases, cause fire.
BMW is recalling 1.6million cars worldwide and 268,000 in the UK. Twelve models are affected, including the 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series X3, X4, X5 and X6 models fitted with four-cylinder engines between December 2014 and August 2016.
The same models fitted with six- cylinder diesel engines made between July 2012 and June 2015 are also affected, along with some models of the 1 Series, 2 Series, 7 Series and X1 built as early as 2010.
I have one of those – what should I do?
Many car owners will have received a safety recall letter, urging them to contact their local BMW garage.
On some models, the garage will automatically replace the EGR cooler. In others, it will inspect the component for damage and only replace it if there is a leak.
Those who have yet to receive a letter should visit the DVSA website and tap in their registration number to see if the car has been recalled.
How long will it take?
It could take months. One driver was told he could not get an appointment until August. BMW said those most at risk are being dealt with first.