SEOUL, Aug. 8 (Korea Bizwire) — A group of BMW owners will file a complaint with police this week seeking a criminal investigation into top officials at the local unit of the German carmaker over a recent series of fires in vehicles, a law firm representing the plaintiffs said Wednesday.
Barun Law LLC said it plans to lodge a complaint on behalf of 20 BMW owners and one victim of a BMW vehicle-related fire with Seoul Namdaemun Police Station at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
The complaint will be made against Johann Ebenbichler, BMW’s vice president on quality management, Kim Hyo-joon, chief of the South Korean unit, and four other officials and entities, in relation to alleged violation of the Automobile Management Act, the law firm said.
The local unit of the second-most popular foreign carmaker in South Korea is under scrutiny after the engines of some 27 vehicles caught fire between January and July this year, prompting a government probe amid growing criticism from consumers who blame the company for a belated response.
The plaintiffs claim that it doesn’t make sense that the carmaker became aware of the problem as of 2016 but failed to determine the exact cause until recently.
Last Friday, the company reported to the transport ministry that it had been collecting information on similar fire cases in Europe since 2016 and only recently found out that the exhaust gas recirculation module was defective.
The plaintiffs are calling for an urgent criminal investigation into the carmaker to secure evidence, such as correspondence between its Korean unit and the headquarters, to see if there were any attempts to cover up the defects.
The complaint follows two separate filings of compensation suits lodged by two different consumer groups on July 30 and last Friday.
On Tuesday, BMW Korea apologized for the defects and for causing public concern in a press conference and pledged to recall 106,000 diesel vehicles, including the highest-selling model here, the 520d, starting later this month. It also vowed to cooperate with the forthcoming probe by the ministry.
Violation of the Automobile Management Act in Korea is punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100 million won (US$89,400).
Meanwhile, the transport ministry looking into the case said it will consider sending a team of experts to the BMW headquarters and its assembly plant if that is deemed necessary to determine the cause of the fires, according to Rep. Hong Chul-ho of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
Hong said the ministry made the remark in response to a query from him.