SEOUL: BMW’s problems in South Korea continue as, following a spate of fires and the recall of more than 100,000 vehicles for safety checks, the government has indicated it will require owners of unchecked BMWs to stop driving them.

The unprecedented move follows growing concerns about the safety of some models, with some 40 vehicles having caught fire this year, leading to company officials issuing a public apology.

According to BMW, the problem lies with defects in the exhaust gas recirculation system which is designed to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from diesel engines and is not specific to Korea; the South Korean government is making its own assessment.

Meanwhile, transport minister Kim Hyun-mee announced this week that “The ministry will ask mayors to order owners of unchecked BMW vehicles to have their cars’ safety checked or to stop driving them.”

The Korea Times reported that a failure to comply with such a request could result in a fine or prison sentence. The police will be given a list of more than 20,000 owners, with owners being escorted to a service center if officers discover their cars on the streets.

Angry owners of burned-out vehicles are seeking compensation and have complained about BMW’s inadequate response.

Some highlighted the limited number of service centres across the country which have led owners to use local, unauthorised centres for repairs and maintenance – thus invalidating warranties.

The 520d model at the centre of the brouhaha was the best-selling imported car in 2016 and 2017 according to figures from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA), but BMW’s sales have been falling in recent months and its position in the market is coming under threat.

“German brands have dominated the domestic imported passenger car market for years,” Kim Pil-soo, a professor of engineering at Daelim University College, told Yonhap.

“The fire hazard will allow BMW’s arch-rival Mercedes-Benz to further cement its leading position in the short term and will allow non-German carmakers to expand their sales in the long term.”

Sourced from The Korea Times, Yonhap; additional content by WARC staff