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Gov’t adds experts to BMW case

Aug 06,2018
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A BMW 520d burns on a road in Mokpo, South Jeolla, on Saturday. [MOKPO FIRE STATION]
The government announced Sunday that it will add private-sector experts to a team that is investigating why BMWs continue bursting into flames in Korea.

Over the weekend, a vehicle that passed the automaker’s safety inspection tests caught fire in Mokpo, South Jeolla.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Sunday, the team of experts from the Korea Transportation Safety Authority currently working on the issue will take on help from the private sector.

The decision came after a BMW 520d caught fire on Saturday in Mokpo, South Jeolla, even though the vehicle underwent a safety inspection at a BMW service center on Aug. 1.

BMW Korea announced on July 30 that it would conduct safety inspections at 61 service centers. So far, over 15,000 vehicles have been checked, while 36,000 are on the waiting list.

Although BMW Korea reportedly told the government that the BMW 520d that caught fire in Mokpo passed the safety inspection due to a mistake by an employee, concerns about the German automaker’s inspections are growing. Including the car in Mokpo, 32 BMWs have caught fire this year, and 18 of them were 520d models.

The ministry said that while the Korea Transportation Safety Authority is in charge of the investigation, private-sector experts will be included due to the gravity of the situation.

“We plan to actively allow the participation of private experts so that the public will be fully convinced by the [investigation’s] results,” said a ministry official.

The government said that BMW Korea turned in documents to the team Saturday on the faulty exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system that the company believes is behind the burning cars, and said it will demand additional documents from the company if they are needed.

The EGR system’s purpose is to lower nitrogen oxide emissions on diesel vehicles by recirculating cooled exhaust gas to the engine. The German automaker suspects the exhaust gas reentered the manifold pipe without being cooled, melting a hole that led to the fires.

The EGR modules that are suspected of being faulty are those manufactured between March 2011 and November 2016 and installed on BMW’s diesel-powered vehicles. The company has recalled a total of 106,317 diesel BMWs. But recently, some BMW gasoline cars have also caught on fire, raising suspicions over the company’s conclusions while opening up the new possibility of other issues, such as software malfunctions.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]