Where there’s smoke, there’s fire? An ABC News report certainly thinks so after investigating dozens of incidents involving parked BMW models bursting into flames across the United States.
While the news station says that an investigation revealed several incidents with BMWs having caught fire, a spokesman for the German automaker stated that they have looked into these fires and had “not seen any pattern” to indicate there might be something wrong with the cars.
The footage shown here is from an incident that occurred back in October 2016 in Oshawa, Canada, with the description of the video stating that the white BMW 328i caught fire just 20-seconds after the driver had walked away from the vehicle.
However, we also have a more recent report of a similar incident involving a 2016 BMW 2-Series that caught fire in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on February 2, 2017. The fire was extinguished by the local fire department, though not before it engulfed the exterior wall of the house. The homeowners were luckily outside and weren’t injured in any way.
“We were able to make a quick attack on this fire from all angles to get it under control and contain the extension to the first floor of the home,” said Chief Eric Smith of the Gloucester Fire Department. “I want to commend crews for their hard work, especially given how cold it was last night.”
The vehicle was completely destroyed by the flames, with total damages (to the car and the home) valued at an estimated $50,000. As for the origin and cause of the fire, it’s currently still under investigation by the Fire Department, as well as the local PD and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. While BMW has issued recalls in the past years over fire-related problems, ABC News learned of more than 40 fires occurring in parked BMW models across the country in the last five years – involving vehicles that did not have open recalls for fire-related issues.
“We have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure,” said BMW in a written statement, emphasizing that such fire incidents are rare and that they can “result from a wide variety of external reasons unrelated to product defect.”
Yet there are those such as New Jersey-based attorney, Joseph Santoli, who say that BMW aren’t very interested in fully disclosing what’s going on.
“I’ve heard from owners that when they confront BMW about their incident, they’re told that this is the first time that BMW has ever heard of it,” stated Santoli. “I think some of it is an example of BMW burying their heads in the sand.” According to him, BMW has offered cash settlements to customers in the past, while insisting they also sign non-disclosure agreements.
Where BMW insists that such agreements are meant to “ensure that each incident is evaluated and then appropriately resolved on its own merits”, Santoli believes that the automaker’s true intentions are to make it less likely that the news spread about a potential problem.
“That’s clearly what they’re intending to do. They’re intending to prevent anyone from sharing notes or comparing, or the media finding out,” concluded the attorney.
Auto safety expert, Sean Kane, who is also the founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies, said that the risk of car fires is not at all uncommon, and that they occur usually in vehicles that are still in operation. However, he also notes that a possible reason for cars catching fire after the engine has been turned off might have something to do with modern vehicles never really being fully powered down.
“A lot of the power to these electronic systems is going to remain on in the vehicle even when the vehicle’s off,” said Kane. “And once the electrical system starts going, you’ve got plenty of combustibles under the hood.”
It’s also important to note that these incidents have been occurring on outside of the U.S. as well, with the South Korean government already launching an investigation following a series of BMW car fires (some parked, some running).
“We don’t know the exact cause yet. We are still investigating,” stated Koh Sungwoo, a South Korean transport ministry official. “We have to investigate those incidents because it’s very dangerous to the people in Korea.”
Perhaps one of the more heartbreaking stories regarding one such incident dates back to December 1st, 2015, when BMW X5 owner Bill Macko lost his SUV in a fire that engulfed not just his garage, but his home as well.
Other incidents reported by ABC News involve a 2003 BMW that caught fire after being parked for at least “three or four days”, a 2011 BMW parked overnight that caught fire last month in Los Angeles, and another 2011 model that caught fire in a garage in Raleigh.
Objectively speaking, finding a pattern surrounding some 40+ reported fires over a long course of five years (involving not one specific BMW model, but several different ones from varying production eras), doesn’t seem very realistic. It’s quite possible they are completely unrelated.
We reached out to BMW for a comment and they provided a press statement in which the company says it has “investigated and in some cases, inspected” the vehicles mentioned in the report.
“In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure,” said BMW.
“Vehicle fires can result from a wide variety of external reasons and can range from improper accident damage repair, unauthorized aftermarket modifications (such as remote starters, stereo installations, etc.), previous vehicle flooding, rodent nesting, lack of, or improper preventative maintenance and even arson.”
“BMW of North America cannot normally comment on incidents outside of the US. However, we can say that as in the US, the incidents in Korea have been investigated and it was determined that the majority were caused by unauthorized aftermarket modifications.”
H/T to Vern!