BMW disrespects Korea

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BMW disrespects Korea

Two more BMWs caught fire on an expressway in Korea as the government mulls banning fire-prone BMW vehicles from Korean roads. The latest fire increases the number of BMWs that burst on fire this year to 36. One of the two cars that caught fire recently was a 2011 730Ld model, which was not subject to recalls. Last week, a car burst into flames a few days after it passed a safety check at a BMW service center.

The response from BMW remains unconvincing and unsatisfactory. It maintains that exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) modules are the sole culprit, even as cars without the system caught fire, raising doubts about its explanation. Diesel cars are also not the only ones going up in flames. Gasoline-fueled models also are catching on fire. Despite the automaker’s denials, many suspect that there are programming failures. Authorities must widen the probe to all possible options.

The German carmaker should not get a pass even if the EGR system is the main cause. It claims to have changed the system from last year, as it caused fires in Korean BMWs for several years. According to its explanation, the automaker put off recalls even though it knew about the potential danger. It did not share documents with government authorities until it decided on a recall last month. BMW has clearly disregarded its Korean customers.

Volkswagen paid $14.7 billion in fines and damages in America over its diesel emissions scandal. It paid just 14.1 billion won ($12.5 million) in Korea. Foreign companies are less fearful of Korean consumers due to the lack of fines and class action lawsuits.
Kim Hyun-mee, the transport minister, wondered aloud whether Korean carmakers would have responded so lackadaisically if their cars caught fire in Germany.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 10, Page 30
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