Seoul - South Korea has taken a firm stand on a burning issue affecting numerous BMW models that are currently under recall.
On Tuesday the country's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it would ban people from driving affected BMW models that haven't received safety checks - and this reportedly amounts to around 27 000 vehicles.
Drivers cannot use the cars unless they're taking them to safety checks, the Ministry said, and violating the ban is punishable by up to 1 year in prison, although the focus would be on persuading drivers to take their vehicles for safety checks as soon as possible.
However, the government warned it would "aggressively" pursue charges against drivers whose vehicles caught fire after they had continuously defied the ban, ministry official Kim Gyeong-wook said.
Nearly 40 fires of BMW vehicles this year are suspected to have been caused by engine problems. Images and videos of BMW sedans engulfed in smoke and gutted by fires caused alarm among drivers. Some parking lots reportedly refused to let in BMW drivers and other drivers said they were trying to avoid BMWs on the road.
BMW last month recalled 42 different vehicle derivatives, all with diesel engines and including the top-selling 520d model. About 106 000 vehicles are affected in total.
The company has identified the cause of the engine fires as leaks of glycol coolant in their exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) coolers. Combined with carbon and oil sediment, the leaks could combust and cause fires when the vehicles were driven at high speeds for long periods of time. Such fires can occur only when the vehicles are being driven.
Any implications for SA motorists?
So far, this recall does not affect South Africa, a BMW SA communications representative told IOL. However, we are awaiting further feedback.
BMW is still investigating why South Korea saw so many such incidents this summer. Overall, engine failure rates in South Korea were no more numerous than in other countries where BMW has used the same software and hardware, BMW has said.
Earlier this month, BMW AG said its investigations had found similar malfunctions that could, "in rare cases," cause fires in some BMW diesel vehicles in the European market.
The company said in a statement it was carrying out what it called a "technical campaign" to check the engines and replace any faulty components on vehicles that could be affected.
The plans met EU guidelines, BMW said, adding that it would contact owners of affected vehicles as soon as possible.
AP & IOL