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BMW Korea chairman questioned over fires

May 11,2019
BMW Korea Chairman Kim Hyo-joon appeared before police Friday to undergo questioning regarding allegations that the automaker concealed vehicle defects that caused cars to burst into flames across the country last summer.

The police summoned Kim to verify whether he knew about the faulty exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system on the company’s diesel cars before the fires began and if he was involved in concealing the defects.

“I again deeply apologize for causing concern to so many people,” Kim said. “Thanks to our customers’ help, recalls have been mostly completed and we are putting our best efforts into preventing this from happening again.”

Since last year, police have raided the BMW Korea headquarters and other affiliated facilities while summoning related officials after multiple BMW vehicle owners reported the German automaker, its Korean unit and their executives to authorities.

Police have been investigating 18 BMW officials including Kim, BMW CEO Harald Kruger and Johann Ebenbichler, BMW vice president of quality management.

The Korean unit of the German automaker is also undergoing a separate criminal probe by the prosecution after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport concluded last year the manufacturer hid fire hazards since 2015 and delayed recalls.

The ministry levied an 11.2 billion won fine ($9.5 million) to the automaker for the alleged delay.

The engine fires deeply damaged the automaker’s reputation and sales in Korea. According to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, sales of BMW and Mini models between January and March this year plunged to 10,136 units from 20,677 during the same period last year.

It also faced a 14.5 billion won fine earlier this year from the Seoul Central District Court for fabricating emissions certificates.

As of last month, the Korean unit of the automaker has fixed the faulty EGR system in 96 percent, or 102,468 vehicles, of the 106,000 affected BMW cars in the first round of recalls, which started in August last year.

In the second round of recalls that started in November, BMW Korea said it has fixed 91 percent, or 59,987 cars, of 65,000 BMW and Mini models with defective EGR systems.


BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]