All of the fires occurred when the vehicles were parked with their engines off. In some cases, the BMW suddenly became engulfed in flames several hours or even days after the car was last used.
ABC News featured Bill Macko, a man whose 2008 BMW X5 caught on fire in his garage and burned his house down. Fires have been reported in the U.S., Sweden, China, India, and South Korea.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTA) has several reports of parked BMWs catching on fire spontaneously. The most recently-reported incident was on February 2, 2017.
The owner of a 2016 BMW 228i said the vehicle “spontaneously combusted in my driveway after being parked for approximately four and a half hours… The vehicle was totally engulfed in flames and destroyed in approximately 10-15 minutes.”
BMW said it has investigated some of the fires that were reported by ABC News. Fires have been reported in multiple model-years and types of BMWs, none of which are under recall for fire hazards.
In cases that we have inspected and are able to determine root cause, we have not seen any pattern related to quality or component failure.”
The mystery of how a BMW catches on fire when the engine is not running has not been solved. The company has blamed improper maintenance and even rodents.
The issue may stem from the fact that modern cars are never really “off.” Power to the electric system is always on. For example, back in 2012, BMW pioneered the use of self-recharging lithium-ion batteries. The BMW M3 and M4 were the first cars with the batteries.