It’s all about the money, pure and simple and let me tell you why. As early as 2011 BMW knew of customer complaints that some of its cars were suffering from an electrical issue that caused a total power failure. That’s a hell of a complaint to ignore, and from what we now know, BMW did ignore these complaints. Eventually, the company recalled 500,000 cars sold in South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States.
A recent investigation by the BBC consumer protection TV show, Watchdog found that petrol and diesel models of the 1 Series, 3 Series, the X1 and Z4 (made between 2007 and 2011) did indeed suffer from a total power failure. As of this week, BMW announced that it would be recalling 300,000 cars to fix the problem.
One BMW owner recalled an incident when he was driving on the motorway with his family in 2016, his 3 Series suddenly lost all power. When his local BMW dealer inspected the car it was revealed that no current was feeding through the fuse box as a result of a burnt out electrical cable.
The owner refused to drive the car any further. Standard practice requires BMW to report such faults to the DVSA, the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. BMW chose not to, not due to an administrative error, they simply wanted to cover up the issue.
The issue didn’t go away, in 2016 a sudden-stalled BMW caused the death of a motorist who had swerved to avoid the stricken car, the driver of the Ford Fiesta crashed into a tree and was killed as a result. This led BMW to issue a recall of 36k cars over an, as then, undisclosed safety issue.
The DVSA has accused BMW of ignoring requests for the timely provision of crucial information relating to the death and when BMW did so they deliberately gave misleading evidence. This looks like a classic case of criminality but it appears it isn’t illegal, whether prosecutions arise is a different matter.
Civil prosecutions could be the next step, however, as a result of Watchdog’s investigation, BMW has suddenly become so concerned it is making all efforts to cover its wrongdoing by issuing the 300k recall.
A statement released by BMW said, “We now recognise that there may have been some cases of similar power supply issues in vehicles not covered by the original recall.”
Roughly translated this means, “ooops, we’ve been outed, I know we’ll setup a publicity stunt by… ermm.. opening up a customer complaints line. A customer complaints line, great damage limitation! let our call handlers take the abuse while our executives are free to go on holiday while the whole thing blows over”
So why did BMW attempt to cover up this serious and literally deadly issue? as I said at the start, it’s all about the money? You don’t have to be an economic genius to work out that recalls cost many, many and up to hundreds of millions to resolve.
If BMW really cared about its customers then it would have resolved these issues a long time ago, but they don’t want to spend the money. They didn’t want to take responsibility. They don’t want to spend the money so that they can release carefully cultivated press statements year-upon-year about how many cars they sell and how much profit they make.
Such statements make the shareholders happy, it creates a false narrative that BMW is excelling in beating its rivals and, in addition, corporate executives can really nail that bonus while ignoring the growing problem that eventually bursts into a debacle.
The law should intervene in such cases to define if BMW has committed a criminal act. In the meantime, BMW will also suffer the indignity of reputational damage, but after a few months and with clever marketing and targeted advertising and collusion with trusted motoring publications all will soon be forgotten because motoring journalism is dead, it’s been dead for a long time.
We here at DCB towers will be contacting the BMW UK complaints hotline to give them a “fuck you” call.