BMW shares its hard-won expertise on car fires

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BMW shares its hard-won expertise on car fires


Park Hae-bum, manager of technical service at BMW Korea, introduces the major causes of car fires and how to prevent them during a press event held Thursday at BMW Driving Center in Yeongjong Island, Incheon. [BMW KOREA]

BMW Korea decided to take the bull by the horns to reclaim its leadership in the local import car market and distance itself from last year’s burning BMW fiasco - by letting drivers know what do if they find themselves with a car that’s on fire.

The Korean subsidiary of the German automaker opened up a so-called Auto Salon on Thursday, an event where BMW technicians share ideas on a range of car industry topics with reporters, choosing to focus on preventing car fires for the first meeting.

“As we have suffered so much from the issue, we thought we were the ones who could best discuss the topic and share our know-how regarding how to prevent such accidents from happening in the future,” a spokesperson for BMW Korea said during the event held at BMW Driving Center in Yeongjong Island, Incheon. “There have been a lot of incidents where cars caught fire, [even before last year], and accidents still take place due to various reasons.”

BMW Korea said it studied accidents involving cars catching on fire that took place over the last five years and found that many accidents actually happened due to external factors - factors aside from internal design problems or production problems.

According to data from the National Fire Agency provided by BMW, there are roughly 5,000 car fires in Korea every year. These incidents, rather than the BMW fires that plagued Korea last year, were the focus of Thursday’s event.

According to BMW Korea, 50 percent of accidents involving fires - excluding the unusual circumstances of last summer’s conflagrations - happen due to the faulty installation of third-party devices like dash cameras, 28 percent due to faulty maintenance or customization, 17 percent due to lack of regular servicing and 5 percent due to carelessness.

“Many people don’t realize, but when they install random dash cams, the danger of fire could increase depending on the wiring process and what kind of cameras and supplementary batteries are used,” explained Park Hae-bum, manager of technical service at BMW Korea. “If customers take their cars for maintenance or customization at unauthorized service centers, cars might seem OK at first, but in emergency situations you never know what will happen.”

Because dash cams can be dangerous, Park recommended that drivers buy their dash cams from their vehicle’s automaker or use models authorized by the company. BMW Korea has been offering authorized dash cams for its cars since 2016, the company said.

Park also explained how to respond to signs of fire while driving.

He said there are four signs of a potential fire - visible smoke, the smell of fire, an alert that the car is out of coolant or an alert that the engine is overheating. He recommended that if drivers see any of those four signs, they should pull over to the side of the road immediately and phone the automaker’s service center. If there is smoke or a smell of fire, drivers should first call the emergency services.

Park cautioned drivers not to open the hood of the car because flammable parts and materials catch fire much quicker with access to more oxygen.

“Think about it as fanning the flames,” Park said.

According to BMW Korea, it has completed 97.7 percent of the first recall that began in August last year in response to the BMW fires last summer and 96.8 percent of the second round of recalls that began in November as of Tuesday.

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