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BMW rollaway inquiry escalates

Stop right now: About 120,000 BMW 7 Series models in the US alone could be the subject of a recall due to reported problems related to the ‘park’ mechanism.

US safety regulator upgrades investigation into BMW 7 Series rollaway reports

17 Apr 2012

BMW is one step closer to recalling hundreds of thousands of its flagship 7 Series after safety investigators in the United States upgraded an investigation into a number of injury-causing accidents, elevating it to an “engineering analysis”.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an investigation last August into reported instances of 7 Series cars with stop-start buttons rolling away after the driver had turned the engine off, which is supposed to automatically engage ‘Park’.

The NHTSA said there have been 50 complaints to BMW or the safety regulator, including five alleged injuries from 16 reported crashes.

BMW Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott said the local subsidiary had not been officially notified of the issue, which suggests it is likely a local software issue and that the campaign will not apply here.

BMW North America said it was co-operating with the NHTSA on the engineering analysis, which involves about 120,000 vehicles in the US sold during the 2002 to 2008 model years.

“When parking the vehicle, the driver has the capability to manually shift the vehicle to park by pressing the ‘Park’ button on the end of the electronic gearshift lever,” reported the NHTSA.

“However, the instructions for engine shut-off provided in the owner’s manual state that pressing the ‘start/stop’ button serves the dual function of switching off the engine and automatically shifting the transmission to park.”

The safety regulator said many of these drivers believe they are in park when their vehicles are actually in neutral and prone to roll away.

Handbooks in Australian 7 Series models in the era carried the same advice quoted by the US authorities.

BMW abandoned the then-innovative stubby steering column-mounted gearshift when it introduced the current-generation 7 Series in 2008.

Last month, BMW separately recalled about 1.3 million cars worldwide due to a possible problem with a battery cable cover in the boot of 5 Series and 6 Series models, including 10,000 in Australia.

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