Law firm asks gov't to carry out tests to determine cause of BMW fires

A South Korean law firm on Thursday called on the government to adopt its proposed test measures to find out the cause of fires in BMW vehicles amid growing safety concerns about cars made by the German luxury brand.

In this photo taken on Aug. 16, 2018, Barun Law partner Jason Ha (R) introduces owners of BMW vehicles that recently caught fire at a press conference in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)

In this photo taken on Aug. 16, 2018, Barun Law partner Jason Ha (R) introduces owners of BMW vehicles that recently caught fire at a press conference in southern Seoul. (Yonhap)

In a press conference held in Seoul, Barun Law LLC., which is representing two groups of BMW car owners who have filed joint lawsuits against the company over a faulty component that could have caused fires in their cars, urged Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transporation carry out "stress and simulation" tests on all affected vehicles.

The local law firm asked the prime minister and the transport ministry to come up with an answer to their suggestions by Aug. 22.

"We have made the suggestions because the ministry vowed to independently identify the cause of engine fires in BMW vehicles by the end of this year. But it has not provided any detailed plan to test the affected vehicles," Jason Ha, a partner of Barun Law, told reporters.

Barun Law also called on the government to buy a secondhand 520d sedan in Europe to compare it with the 520d models that caught fire in Korea and send one of the affected BMW vehicles to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to undergo analysis by the world-renowned organization.

"We want the government to see if 520d sedans sold in Europe use the same exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) module as vehicles sold in Korea. Sending an affected BMW vehicle to NTSB for analysis appears to be the 'last resort' to find out what exactly caused dozens of fires in BMW cars in Korea," Ha told reporters.

BMW has blamed the EGR component as the "root cause" of recent fires. A total of 40 fires in BMW cars have been reported this year through Wednesday, with no injuries or fatalities.

Among the four owners of affected BMW vehicles who attended the press conference, Tom Dahl-Hansen, who resides in Seoul after working at the UN in Switzerland for 20 years, said he has not been driving his 520dx sedan since July due to safety concerns. He has driven BMW cars for 40 years.

"I liked the quality of BMW vehicles and customer services, but this time, I am very disappointed by the company. It is hiding something to the users without offering right solutions (for the fire incidents)," the 72-year-old Norway native told Yonhap News Agency.

Last month, BMW said it will recall 106,317 vehicles from Aug. 20 after completing an emergency safety check on the recalled models by Aug. 14. But the carmaker failed to finish the inspection and the transport ministry issued an order to suspend the operation of uninspected vehicles from Wednesday.

The driving ban was the first of its kind in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

The ministry said Wednesday the number of BMW vehicles that have yet to undergo inspection fell to 15,092 as of Wednesday from 19,276 a day earlier.

On the legal front, Barun Law currently advises two separate lawsuits jointly filed against BMW by 21 owners of BMW cars subject to the planned recall, as well as a complaint submitted against BMW and six executives by 21 BMW owners. One person joined both the lawsuit and the complaint, Ha said.

On Friday, some 120 consumers will jointly take legal action against BMW even though their vehicles have not suffered engine fires yet. On Aug. 21, 10 consumers whose BMWs don't belong to the recall plan will file a suit against the German auto giant, the attorney said.

On the same day, 20 consumers, he said, will file a complaint with a local court against Harald Kruger, chairman of the BMW AG Board of Management; BMW Group spokesman Jochen Frey; and BMW Korea Chairman Kim Hyo-joon.

In a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency, BMW spokesman Jochen Frey said potential defects that had also been identified in the exhaust gas recycling system in Germany would not lead to the enactment of similar driving bans.

"There can be many reasons for a fire to break out," he said, arguing that the specific concentration of incidents in South Korea might be owing to local traffic, conditions and driving styles.

Asked about the possibility that the government will not respond to Barun Law's demands by the Aug. 22 deadline, Ha said the law firm believes the government "will give serious consideration to its suggestions as all eyes are on the BMW issue." Source from the Yonhap.

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