BMW Needs Less Complexity, More Transparency

November 9, 2010 at 7:47 am Leave a comment

A couple of recent events have reinforced for me the complexity that comes with BMW ownership. Much of this seems unnecessary, and BMW often does a poor job of communicating problems to owners.

Last week an old friend of mine asked for some advice. He drives a 2007 E93 328 convertible, and had a daytime running light bulb out in his driver side headlight. He had been given a quote from the dealer to replace that was pretty high in his opinion, and wanted my opinion. Not knowing his car as well as my own, I jumped onto the E90 forum and asked for help.

Wow – I thought my cars were bad! I found a bunch of forum members who weren’t sure at all how to replace — and they own the same model car! Also, it turns out that the headlight of the E90 sedan is different from the coupe and convertible — no one knows why. And, the headlight design changed in the middle of the production run, it’s different for 2007-09 cars than for 2010 on cars. Here’s the thread. Under the circumstances, I counseled my friend to hold his nose and pay the dealer.

Recently I had to replace the Crank Case Valve/Ventilation (CCV) on my 2001 530. My car had been burning some oil and I knew something was up. Granted it has been nine years, but in my research I was irritated to find out that the original part in my car was not insulated. I found a Service Information Bulletin about the issue from February of 2009 that lays this out plainly. BMW now allows the CCV to be covered under their Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program, but that does me no good. Didn’t someone in Munich know back in 2001 that parts of this country get cold in winter?

The most recent example of BMW not coming clean with owners is the class action lawsuit involving the fuel pump on the N54 twin turbo engine. That engine received  positive fanfare when it was introduced in 2007, and it powers a number of different BMW models. But apparently many of the cars either went into “limp” mode or failed completely due to the faulty fuel pumps, and according to the suit BMW initially tried to deal with the problem with software upgrades.

Now the company has extended the emissions warranty period to 10 years or 120,00o miles, but some owners have had enough. I’m not an attorney and I don’t drive a N54 powered BMW, so I can’t judge the validity of the class action. But the time gap between the first reported problems and BMW’s warranty extension suggests the company could have been more forthright about the problem.

As I wrote back in August, I think BMW is at a crossroads. If BMW wants to continue growing in North America, the company has to improve reliability and communicate better with customers. It’s time the company showed its number one market more respect.

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