Has the ABC News investigation influenced BMW’s recall decision?

News | October 27th, 2010 by 21
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Power of the news media should never be underestimated and in our recent history, media outlets, TV stations, magazines, blogs and even forums played a …

Power of the news media should never be underestimated and in our recent history, media outlets, TV stations, magazines, blogs and even forums played a decisive and highly influential factor in events around the world.

On Tuesday, story of the day came from an unexpected recall announcement by BMW. After years of battling with many complaints and in some cases lawsuits initiated by its customers, BMW has announced today a major recall for 130,000 vehicles using the N54 engine twin-turbo engine and another 20,800 MY 2008 X5 equipped with normally-aspirated inline six-cylinder engines.

Both of these recalls revolved around issues with the high and low-pressure fuel pumps.

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But in the morning preceding the announcement, ABC News went live with a report on the N54 issue based on an investigation that took place over the last 30 days. Several owners went on camera to talk about their safety concerns and unexpected behavior from their cars. BMWNA’s Vice President of Engineering, Tom Baloga went on camera as well to provide an official response.

Questions from ABC News “caused us to decide to take action sooner, rather than later.” Baloga also said: “When that high-pressure pump on the engine fails, the vehicle goes into what we call a safe mode, which means that you have power steering, power brakes but you don’t have as much power and that can be startling for some people.” He said “it’s unfortunate that the failure of the pump caused that feeling and we certainly can sympathize with that. People have different expectations.”

All of these events occurred prior to the recall announcement that went out at around 11am EST. According to Autoblog, “after being harangued by ABC producers, however, BMW has also reportedly agreed to take major action on the subject in the near future – an action that could come as soon as today.”

The ABC story segment aired on the popular Good Morning America show and a lengthier piece went live last night on Nightline.

In our opinion, the ABC report played an important role, but it has not been the decisive factor in this recall. With increased chatter on the interwebs and a new class action suit, BMW was bound to deliver a satisfactory resolution to its customers. Some believe the recall action should have come earlier, as we have seen ourselves in an article dated May 2009 that gathered 370 comments to date, a significant number that has been increasing every day.

In BMW’s defense, the company has previously acknowledged the problem and offered affected owners an extended emissions warranty period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first.

It is too early to assess the impact on the brand, but a lot of ink would flow on this story and months later, customer feedback metrics would be more accurate.

This recall could go in BMW’s book of lessons learned and with the Internet evolving and playing a more important role in our lives, more prompt responses to customer complaints are expected and highly encouraged.

A closing statement by Tom Baloga, which might be taken out of context from the 51 minutes interview with ABC, says the following:

When asked why it did not call them all in for a replacement, Baloga said, “We don’t want to alarm people …” and added, “We did take action to notify people. We probably can be better in the future with our communication and we’ll take a look at that.”


21 responses to “Has the ABC News investigation influenced BMW’s recall decision?”

  1. Young says:

    I have been complaining about this problem to the dealer for some time. In the first visit, they said they fixed the problem. I continued to have the problem but every time I take it in, they said its was fine. Now it is getting worse. I even have to miss my job interview today as a physician at a hospital because of this, which took a long time to set up due to my and their busy schedule. I am so angry about this. I will never buy another BMW ever again!!

    • Jordan says:

      don’t let this situation turn you off from BMW. they make some fantastic cars and you will find that all manufacturers are going to have problems every so often. no one is free from that…. Toyota couldn’t be a better example of that!

      i’m sure if you would have gotten the 328i or 528i, an engine other than the 35i, you would be very happy with your car. let BMW fix the problem. if it is too much, then consider getting another vehicle, however, i wouldn’t make a brash decision to exclude all future BMW products because of a fuel pump in a limited amount of vehicles. i know how frustrating things are when your car just isn’t right or something is broken and you’re not getting service!

      • adc says:

        Do let this situation turn him off from BMW – I’m sure your statements would differ if it had happened to you personally.

        Let Young try out something else, he may be more satisfied with that. And BMW might learn a valuable lesson.

      • FreudeKing says:

        It is not just about that. It is the company’s attitude towards fixing problems and being responsible towards their customers that’s not acceptable here. The excuse of if not wanting to alarm customers is BS.

        I tell you what they were probably thinking: they want to ignore this thing as much as they can because a recall will hurt brand image and also cost the company a lot of money. This is also the reason why they have been using software to impair customers’ vehicle performance so that they do not notice the underlying problems of product defects.

        Now that this thiing is all over, they have no choice but to recall the cars! This problem has been around since a few years ago already. Also, the explanation about some customers finding the loss in power unacceptable and that customers all have different expectations is absolute bs! If you bought a car with a certain amount of output, would you all of a sudden accept less knowing there is a defect! ABSOLUTE TRASH!

  2. Hugo Becker says:

    There’s more to this than meets the eye – this isn’t just ‘a local’ media outlet running a story. It’s national and the story was delivered by Chris Cuomo – he’s brother to Andrew Cuomo the New York state attorney general, and his father is Mario Cuomo (who ran for the Democratic party nomination for President at one time). You have to tread lightly around that . . . ;-)

  3. jeff says:

    BMW USA has issued a recall, and extended the warranty on the fuel pump to 6 years, 120k miles. Good for them, the eventually got it right. But if they replace your fuel pump, it still is a flawed design.

    BMW Canada has refused to acknowldege it is an issue. If you are in Canada, please contact BMW Customer Service at 1-8000567-2691 and register a complaint that BMW Canada has not provided its customers with the same extended warranty and recall as BMW USA. Also go to Transport Canada at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safevehicles-defectinvestigations-index-76.htm and follow the online public defects form to register a complaint there. BMW Canada customers will only get the same level of assistance if we get a critical volume of complaints.

    • Ken in Canada says:

      My experience was satisfactory. I had the problem with my 2009 335i. I called my dealer/service dept. ( Maranello- in Toronto) on Saturday and I was in first thing Monday. they paid for a rental and by Wednesday afternoon I had a new HPFP. No attempt to get rid of me with a software fix. Maybe my timing was right.

      Maybe they have reached a point where they are dealing with it on an as come basis, although one would expect an extended warranty and recall here as well. I thought I saw a canadian mention a “secret 10 year warranty” being honoured in Canada on one of the boards when I was researching the problem.

    • Rick says:

      Good advice. Called BMW Canada who advised they were doing nothing. So called Transport Canada who advised that BMW Canada had in fact announced a recall/warranty extension. Left hand…right hand!

  4. Delphine F says:

    I believe car dealers know how to play the game. I had recall to chev silverado 2000 w/accident. I contacted GM and ERISA is ins co. GM filed bankruptcy within about one month of. I’m left w/medical bills. This is staged/planned and get bailout too.Sorry, but that’s my feeling because I have no recourse to feel otherwise.

  5. Bob says:

    I can’t help but compare this to the Toyota throttle mess. They denied any responsibility for years. BMW has already owned up. This is the kind of company I like to deal with. I’ve owned a 2008 135i since July, 2008. It has had no problems. My understanding is that the problem in the fuel pump is not the design but the manufacture. That is, the defective pumps were manufactured out of spec.

    • FreudeKing says:

      In any case, that is BMW’s problem. BMW now issues a recall after how many years? On top of that not all are recalled to be replaced, some are just getting a software change (which I hope is not to impair vehicle performance to hide the defective pumps malfunctioning).

    • sprinter says:

      You may have reached the proper conclusion that “the defective pumps were manufactured out of spec.” However, for BMW to replace a defective pump with a new, equally defective one has not been a solution.
      The N54 twin-turbo in the 135, 335 and 535 series has been the root of the problem, beginning in 2007 and continuing through 2010. It is unconscionable that BMW could essentially ignore reported incidents for four years, and finally issue a recall coincident with the ABC investigation. This is not just unethical, but illegal behavior. It’s a miracle that no one died by being rear-ended in “limp mode.” The spokesman for BMW was as credible as Tarik Aziz, the mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein now sentenced to death by the present Iraqi regime.

      I leased a 2008 335xi and had the first fuel pump fail at 6,000 miles. It was prompltly replaced. I had a second failure at 14,000 miles, the second occuring in fewer than two years; it was promptly replaced. I was told that the French manufacturer of the HPFP was at fault. I phoned BMW N.A. and within two weeks had received a return call essentially asking me what I was seeking. I asked that the lease be terminated. Under the CA lemon law, the occurrence of one unreparable problem is sufficient cause to require the manufacturer to reacquire the vehicle. I am not a lawyer, and I was not belligerent. I received a refund of 97% of my lease payments plus all DMV fees within two months after the verbal agreement. I was fortunate to not be marooned in the desert in Summer or the Sierra in Winter. The attitude of BMW to deliberately and blithely delay a forceful and immediate campaign to cease manufacturing the N54 engine, waiting until the FOURTH YEAR is most definitely reason enough to never trust this manufacturer. Those owners and lessees who had to put up with annual HPFP problems (and more in my case, like warning lights, failed all-wheel drive, stalling because of batteries which lose their charge if the car isn’t driven aggressively enough–I kid you not!) would not be as blase about the lack of integrity if you were in our position. BMW is the only car which I have driven in approx. 30 years which failed and had to “limp” or be towed. The most reliable cars I leased were Infiniti and Lexus, in that order. Now driving an Audi Quattro A4. We’ll see how reliable this one is in due course–it is fun to drive, even with a turbo-four.

      • Shane says:

        So we should all demand a refund of our payments then??? Make BMW buy back all these defective cars!!!

      • TG says:

        I know I’m late on the scene here, but I have dealt with the same fuel pump issue and I wouldn’t trade in my 335xi for anything. It is one of the best performing engines in the world, and just so you are aware, this is a problem that is consistent with the fillers used in the gasoline (specifically in the USA).

        If you have problems with the way BMW (specifically your dealership) handled this, take it up with your state’s attorney general. Most states have passed lemon laws which govern this sort of thing. Although it does sound like you were covered under the lemon law in yours.

        I can honestly say that my pump went once… since then, no problems whatsoever. Was it a break-in period issue? I don’t know, but I can tell you that this car screams when it’s opened up, and there is no Audi, Lexus, or Infinity that will compare to it. Good luck finding a replacement… sorry to hear you’ve decided to abandon what is without doubt one of the finest daily driver’s you will ever put your tush in.

  6. Tom says:

    people are sooo dramatic! stfu god for bid one little thing goes wrong, the whole brand is shit to some people. NOT at all.
    at least this will weave out the ones who only buy these cars for the badge. bmw fanatics will always be fanatics at heart

    cant wait to see when audi fucks up and goes to hell! we all know its coming… >:D

  7. E46ZHPCABRIO says:

    HELL YEAH TOM!!!!! fuck Audi and yes it is just a matter of time for Audi since all it is a VW engine that is an overpriced P.O.S. Merc will always be number 2 < BMW.

  8. Arif says:

    Great to see guys that you’re not taking sides and stay impartial. I actually like to see this, a biased tone doesn’t help you nor BMW. As you noted also, I certainly believe BMW was very little influenced by the ABC report and they were working on this for a while. BMW has always been respectful to its customers and even tho it took longer this time, they cam through. A recall clearly doesn’t get decided just hours after a story goes live on TV.

    Bottom line, kudos and same to BMW for taking care of this.

  9. jane says:

    I have a 2001 740il with 92,000 miles. The car has cost me in repairs from 2010-2011, $7,000.00 i AM SO ANGRY!!!!!! All my cars since 1980-2011 have been bmw’s. I am so furious and so are alot of my friends that own bmw”s are switching to Mercedes, everybody I talk to, mechanics, friends, say the car is junk. I will not buy another BMW. They need to stop being so damn greedy and build the car like they originally did in the past. They want these cars to fail so you can keep buying them and paying their over priced mechanics to keep fixing your car, that in itself makes you want to get rid of the car.Trust and believe you should get rid of your car when the warranty is giving out on you. They need to recall all of the models to fix the reverse problem,I like everybody else after putting $7,000 in the vehicle, to have this problem happen next, I am so done with BMW. I was talking with a sales person from BMW and asked him to lose my number and stop calling me about buying a new vehicle I had my eyes on, they lost a sale and I’m glad I didn’t buy that car.
    Jordan I understand manufacturers have problems, but I have a problem about having a car for a money pit.WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ULTIMATE DRIVING MACHINE, IT SHOULD BE THE ULTIMATE MONEY PIT.


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